University of Pittsburgh to Host a “Take a Shot at Changing the World” Event to Observe the April 12th Anniversary of the Salk Polio Vaccine Developed at Pitt

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Stacy Smith, KDKA-TV anchor and polio survivor, will moderate the global videoconference titled “Finishing the Job: Making the World Polio Free”; students from schools around the world will participate

To observe the anniversary of the Salk Polio Vaccine—developed by a University of Pittsburgh research team led by Jonas Salk and declared “safe, effective, and potent” on April 12, 1955—Pitt will host a special interactive global videoconference to raise awareness of the importance of making the world polio free. “Finishing the Job: Making the World Polio Free” will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. April 12 in Pitt’s O’Hara Student Center, 4024 O’Hara St., Oakland.

Stacy Smith, KDKA-TV anchor, will moderate the videoconference, which will highlight how Pittsburghers once changed the world by working together to develop the first polio vaccine and also to encourage a new generation to finish the job and again make history by eradicating polio throughout the world.

Participants and their origination sites for the videoconference follow.

• David Oshinsky, the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Polio: An American Story (Oxford University Press, 2005), from the University of Texas, Austin;

• Hamid Jafari, who served as director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in India, from The World Health Organization in Geneva;

• Walt Orenstein, former deputy director for Immunization Programs and Vaccine Delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, from Emory University in Atlanta; and

• Paul Offit, co-inventor of the Rotavirus Vaccine and chief of Infectious Disease at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, from Philadelphia.

Also participating at Pitt are:

  • Bob Scott, Chair of Rotary International’s PolioPlus Committee. Rotary International was the first organization with the vision of a polio-free world, serving as the catalyst for the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, and has contributed more than US$1.2 billion toward polio eradication.
  • Pittsburgh polio pioneer Ron Flynn, a polio survivor who was among the first to receive the then experimental Salk vaccine at D.T. Watson Institute
  • Sidney Busis, a doctor who did tracheotomies on iron lung patients at Pittsburgh’s Municipal Hospital three floors below where the members of Salk’s Pitt team—including senior scientist Julius Youngner, now Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Pitt— were working on the polio vaccine.

Southwestern Pennsylvania middle and high school students and students at more than a dozen schools around the world are scheduled to participate. Among the foreign nations participating are Pakistan, one of three countries where polio is still endemic, and India, which recently made international news by having been declared polio free for one year. Students will be allowed to ask questions of the speakers and will be challenged to come up with ways they can rid the world of polio.

The event also will include a special animation video starring Bill Gates as well as clips from the 2010 film The Shot Felt ‘Round the World, which received its world premiere at a Pitt-sponsored screening, was named Best Documentary at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival, and has been picked up for international distribution by Mercury Media. Pitt Film Studies faculty member and Steeltown Entertainment Project Executive Producer Carl Kurlander produced the documentary.

The event is being presented by, in addition to Pitt and Steeltown, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Rotary District 7300, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is part of “Take a Shot at Changing the World,” a pioneering digital media initiative offering more than $10,000 in prizes to middle and high school students in Southwestern Pennsylvania who make movies about how Pittsburgh has changed the world and how people can make a difference in their communities with a special prize for the best “polio” video.

Seating for the videoconference is limited, but schools and the general public are welcome to participate in person or by watching live by registering at www.worldpittsburgh.org.  Through Rotary, schoolchildren in India have also agreed to participate in the videoconference.

For more information on the April 12 program, contact Rachel@steeltown.org or call 412-622-1325. For information on the contest, visit www.takeashotcontest.org/.

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