March 18, 2024

Photo collage of women leaders in vaccinology

Vaccinology is about more than just scientific breakthroughs—it is about lives transformed, communities protected, and futures secured. For some, it is a moment of realization that a career can be as fulfilling as it is impactful.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) will host an inspiring and interactive online panel discussion featuring influential Women Leaders in Vaccinology sharing personal stories and lessons learned throughout their careers, at the 2024 Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research. Read on for insights from these trailblazing women leaders …

Marion Gruber, PhD, MS
Vice President, Public Health and Regulatory Science
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)

Advice for the next generation: Follow your chosen career path and passion, and do not let others tell you it is too difficult or cannot be done. Strive to have a healthy work/life balance and take things with a little humor!

Favorite quote: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

I became interested in vaccinology when I worked as a PhD student in immunology. Improving lives by making safe and effective vaccines available is critically important and very rewarding. This includes people in my own family, in my community, people in the US, and globally. We are only safe from life-threatening infectious diseases when everybody across the globe has access to life-saving vaccines.

Marion Gruber

Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Advice for the next generation of women leaders: Never underestimate your potential, and identify sponsors and mentors who really have your back!

As an infectious disease specialist, I’ve seen firsthand the consequences of many infections that are now preventable by immunization—not just in areas of the world where vaccine coverage is suboptimal, but in places where lack of uptake has placed people at risk. Once you’ve seen a case of tetanus, diphtheria, or pneumonia in an adult due to measles, you don’t forget it. Optimizing the potential of vaccines to deliver safe, effective prevention is something we should all strive for.

Jeanne Marrazzo headshot

Kathleen M. Neuzil, MD, MPH
NFID Vice President
Myron M. Levine Professor in Vaccinology
University of Maryland School of Medicine

I cannot imagine a more rewarding career than one in vaccinology–it combines cutting-edge science with public health impact and allows me to work with inspiring people every day.

Nadine G. Rouphael, MD
Director, Hope Clinic, Emory Vaccine Center
Emory University

Advice for the next generation: Believe in yourself and advocate for others, invest in a support network and find balance, embrace change yet stay authentic to yourself. Most importantly, love what you do and have fun.

Favorite quote: “I never lose; I either win or learn.” (Nelson Mandela)

I grew up in an environment and a time where vaccines were transformational. The (immunologic) equity vaccines provided is unmatched. In 2006, while at a conference, I heard Katheryn (Kathy) M. Edwards, MD say on the field of vaccinology: “I cannot wait to wake up in the morning and go to work.” As an incurable snoozer, I told myself: “I want that career.”

Nadine Rouphael with friend

Tonya L. Villafana, PhD, MPH
Vice President, Global Franchise Head and Head of Scientific Affairs, Vaccines & Immune Therapies

Advice for the next generation: Find what you love doing, have confidence in yourself, and trust your judgment! With a career in vaccinology research, there will be wins and there will be setbacks but leading with patience and conviction will keep everyone focused on the common goal of improving public health.

Something I learned early in my life from attending an all-girls school is that there is power in women coming together as a community. I am honored to be part of this panel and look forward to discussing our collective experiences, challenges, and wins as women in vaccinology.

I was inspired to become a scientist by my dad, who has a background in agricultural sciences and instilled a curiosity in me about the  world. I also developed a love for science at the all-girls high school I attended in Trinidad. I became specifically interested in vaccinology  in college when our understanding of HIV began to emerge and after graduate school when I saw the devastating impacts of the HIV  epidemic, particularly among vulnerable populations globally. I moved to Botswana to focus on HIV vaccine research and community  education where I felt I could make a difference.

Tonya L. Villafana, PhD, MPH 

Get Inspired at ACVR

Learn more from these pioneers and other thought leaders in vaccinology at the 2024 Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research scheduled as an online event on May 8-10, 2024.

Register now to help shape future breakthroughs in vaccinology.

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