Dr. Anne Rimoin, an internationally recognized expert on emerging infections, global health, infectious disease surveillance systems and vaccinations who has been engaged in pandemic preparedness and response work for more than two decades, has been appointed to the newly established Gordon–Levin Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases and Public Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“The risk of infectious disease outbreaks is increasing exponentially because of factors that include more frequent travel, people living in more densely populated areas and coming into closer contact with wild animals, and the disruptive effects of climate change,” Rimoin said. “But while infectious disease outbreaks are inevitable, pandemics are preventable with strong investments in public health systems that allow for the rapid identification and control of new emerging pathogens. I am proud to have worked with incredibly talented colleagues and students at home and abroad on these efforts and am deeply honored to receive this recognition and support.”
A professor of epidemiology at the Fielding School and director of the school’s Center for Global and Immigrant Health, Rimoin has devoted her career to understanding how new infectious diseases emerge and building surveillance systems capable of detecting early outbreaks and preventing pandemics — sometimes likened to finding a needle in a haystack. Her pioneering research in emerging diseases includes the identification of new pathogens in humans and epidemiologic studies of the Ebola virus, human monkeypox and other infections.
She is currently leading a series of studies on COVID-19 locally and globally, including one on asymptomatic infection and immunity in health workers and first responders and another on vaccine hesitancy among essential and frontline workers. Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rimoin has been a steady presence in the local, national and international media, communicating real-time information on issues related to risk and prevention.
Rimoin has built a reputation as a strong advocate for capacity building in low-resource settings, as well as for conducting disease surveillance in complex emergencies. She is the founding director of the UCLA–DRC Health Research and Training Program, based at the Fielding School and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she has worked with local collaborators for nearly two decades. The program supports epidemiological studies and provides training for UCLA and Congolese students in the DRC, the site of numerous emerging infectious diseases, while empowering the Congolese to take control of their nation’s health agenda.
Jean Jacques Muyembe and other members of the DRC’s Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (National Institute of Biomedical Research) who have worked closely with Rimoin over the years congratulated her on the appointment. “We are all proud of you, especially given that you spent part of your brilliant career at the INRB,” they wrote in a letter.
Peter Hotez, dean of the Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, also offered praise for Rimoin’s work.
“For decades, Anne Rimoin has been a fearless virus hunter and epidemiologist providing the world with important new insights on diseases such as monkeypox and Ebola, which has required careful studies conducted under difficult and even almost-impossible conflict and post-conflict conditions in the DRC,” Hotez said. “Now she is helping our nation get through COVID-19. This recognition is both timely and important.”
Tom Gordon, the son of parents who survived Nazi occupation during World War II, graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in economics, then went on to a successful career that culminated in a position as executive vice president of Cedars-Sinai Health System, where he continues to consult with the president and CEO during his retirement. He has been an active supporter of the Fielding School for more than 25 years, including serving as a preceptor and lecturer in the school’s graduate program in health policy and management and mentoring more than 30 students, many of whom he subsequently hired at Cedars-Sinai. He joined the school’s board of advisors in 2017.
Gordon developed a close personal friendship with Los Angeles land developer Don Levin while working on a Cedars-Sinai building lease, and Levin eventually entrusted Gordon with oversight of his business and charitable giving — including as co-trustee of the Don S. Levin Trust, which supports health, education and children’s programs. In 2019, the Gordons and the Levin Trust pledged the lead gift to establish the Paul Torrens Chair in Healthcare Management at the Fielding School.
“One of the great lessons from COVID-19 is that we need to invest in research that will better prepare us for the inevitable epidemics and pandemics ahead,” Gordon said. “Our intention in establishing the Gordon–Levin Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases and Public Health is to help increase the visibility of this vital work and to highlight the need to support it consistently over time. We are thrilled that Anne Rimoin, an international leader in this area, has been appointed to this position.”
Dr. Ron Brookmeyer, dean of the Fielding School and a distinguished professor of biostatistics, emphasized that the type of infectious disease research and educational activities supported by the new endowed chair are critical to the future health and economic well-being of populations around the world.
“We have seen the unspeakable impact on lives and livelihoods, locally and globally, that can occur when we are ill-prepared,” he said. “Both as a school and as a community, we are fortunate to have supporters like Tom and Edna Gordon and the Don S. Levin Trust who have the foresight to invest in essential work that will keep us all safer and healthier in the future.”
by Dan Gordon