Walter A. Orenstein, MD

Professor and Associate Director

Emory Vaccine Center


Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Emory University School of Medicine


Influenza Pathogenesis & Immunology Research Center (IPIRC), Emory University School of Medicine


Emory Center for AIDS Research


Walter A. Orenstein, MD, DSc (Hon) is Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center and Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Global Health at Emory University.  Dr. Orenstein has had a long and distinguished career at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).  Dr. Orenstein began his career in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) of the CDC, focusing on immunization, particularly on smallpox eradication and measles elimination.  Between 1988 and 2004, he was Director of the United States Immunization Program rising to become an Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service.  During Dr. Orenstein’s tenure at the CDC, record high levels of immunization coverage among children were reached and indigenous transmission of measles and rubella was eliminated.  Multiple new vaccines were introduced into the childhood immunization schedule.  From 2004-2008, Dr. Orenstein was Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Program with a major focus on policy issues related to influenza vaccination in the United States.  In 2008, he left Emory University to become the Deputy Director for Immunization Programs at the BMGF, in charge of a large portfolio ranging from implementation of polio eradication activities to basic research on improved vaccines and diagnostics.  Polio eradication was the number one priority of the BMGF.

Research Interests

Walter A. Orenstein is a Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Global Health and Principal Investigator of The Influenza Pathogenesis & Immunology Research Center (IPIRC), one of five national Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) funded by NIH/NIAID. The goals of the Center are to determine the molecular, ecologic and/or environmental factors that influence the evolution, emergence, transmission and pathogenicity of influenza viruses, including studies on animal influenza viruses with pandemic potential; and to characterize the immune response to influenza vaccination to improve understanding of the immune correlates of protection and cross-protection. The Center's structure is comprised of four research projects, two pilot projects, and two training slots. The scope of the Center's focus includes planning for pandemic influenza and sharing data with other scientists in order to promote collaboration and lay the groundwork for new and improved methods of controlling influenza virus. In the event of a public health emergency involving the emergence and spread of an influenza pandemic in humans, the Network of Centers will be on the frontline to implement the NIAID Pandemic Public Health Research Response Plan.  In addition, I collaborate with Saad Omer and other investigators at Emory University and Kaiser Permanente – Georgia to evaluate potential causal relationships and risk factors for adverse events temporally related to vaccines.  In addition, we work on epidemiologic evaluations of vaccine effectiveness and risk factors for vaccine failure using medical records in the Kaiser Database.  As Chairman of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), issues arise regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness which can be evaluated in the Kaiser Permanente database.  Dr. Orenstein is a consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) with a primary focus on designing and monitoring research projects to assure polio is eradicated and that eradication is maintained.