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The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) has awarded its prestigious Alwyn Smith Prize to Professor Sir Peter Horby for 2020/2021 in recognition of his outstanding service to public health as a global leader in epidemic science.

Portrait of Peter Horby - credit John Cairns © John Cairns

He is honoured for both his longstanding contribution to improving the treatment and control of epidemic infections and his more recent contribution to improving the treatment of COVID-19 through the RECOVERY trial.

In a letter to Prof. Horby, the FPH said he has ‘gained international prominence, which reflects a career of experience and insight in epidemic response.

‘Your relentless focus on health inequities and your commitment to collaboration on public health research, whether at a local or global level, have resulted in an outstanding career and achievements.’

Prof. Horby said: ‘When so many people have done so much in the last two years, I feel incredibly privileged to have been given this prestigious award. There are many lessons from the pandemic, but one that stands out for me is the absolutely central and essential role of public health specialists in protecting health and society. I hope that 2020 will be a watershed, marking a step change in the level of investment and recognition of the public health profession, not just in the UK but globally.’ 

The prize was created by Professor Alwyn Smith following his retirement as FPH President in 1986 to celebrate the outstanding contribution of members to the health of the public by either research or practice in public health. It is considered FPH’s most prestigious award.

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) is a membership organisation for nearly 4,000 public health professionals across the UK and around the world – its role is to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities and national populations.

Professor Horby received a certificate and medal and was honoured at a Faculty ceremony on 13 October.

As Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, and Director of the Pandemic Sciences Centre, Peter Horby has led clinical and epidemiological research on a wide range of emerging and epidemic infections for almost two decades, including SARS, avian influenza (bird flu), Ebola, Lassa fever, monkeypox, and plague.

During the very earliest days of COVID-19, he worked with colleagues in China to characterise the illness and test new treatments. He co-leads the RECOVERY trial, the largest randomised controlled trial of COVID-19 treatments in the world. The RECOVERY trial changed global treatment practices for COVID-19 three times in 100 days, has delivered results on nine treatments to date, and continues to test treatments in the UK and internationally.

Peter is Director of the Pandemic Sciences Centre at the University of Oxford; Executive Director of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC), and coordinator of the African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training (ALERRT). He is Chair of the UK Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

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