Fred L. Soper, MD, DrPH (1893-1977)
Dr. Soper served as the director of the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau from 1947 to 1959. At the Second World Health Assembly in 1949, he fought to prevent the complete absorption of the Bureau into the World Health Organization (WHO). His suggestion that the Bureau become the WHO Regional Office for the Americas prevailed, thus establishing the modern era of PAHO. When first elected as director, Dr. Soper's staff consisted of a small group of workers from the United States and Puerto Rico housed in two small rooms. Their annual budget was $300,000. Their goal was to eradicate malaria, urban yellow fever, smallpox, and yaws. When he left office 12 years later, the budget was $8 million; the staff was large and multinational; and PAHO's programs were in every country in Latin America.
Upon receiving his doctor of public health degree from the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in 1925, he directed the program that eradicated the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae from Brazil. In the 1940s, he accomplished the same in Egypt. He also worked against urban yellow fever in Brazil and other countries, and became the world authority on this deadly disease.
Dr. Soper sought and often found simple and practical solutions to public health problems, which he shared with other public health practitioners. Despite his full schedule, he found time to publish more than a hundred works in medical and public health journals throughout the world as well as several books, such as his book Building the Health Bridge (1970) that reflects his commitment to human solidarity.
View the video clipof Part II: Fred Soper's Valiant Campaign from the Malaria's Tenacious Grip segment of the November 2000 Rx for Survival series broadcast on PBS stations across the US.