Natasha Crowcroft to lead WHO’s Measles and Rubella Program

April 7/2020

Dr. Natasha Crowcroft has accepted an international leadership role with the World Health Organization (WHO) as Senior Technical Advisor – Measles and Rubella Control that she will begin later this spring.

“I’m thrilled to take on this new challenge with WHO – my dream job following a decade of working internationally in measles and rubella elimination,” said Crowcroft, who will keep her appointment of Professor of Epidemiology at DLSPH. She is also the inaugural Director of U of T’s Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases and she will remain engaged with in the Centre in her new post.

Professor Crowcroft is also appointed in U of T Medicine’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, and an Adjunct Scientist at ICES. She previously served as Chief Science Officer and in a number of other leadership positions at Public Health Ontario from 2008 to 2019.

Crowcroft’s research aims to maximize the public health benefits of immunization. As the Centre’s inaugural director, she leveraged the University’s rich history in vaccine development and brought together interdisciplinary experts from public health, medicine, pharmacy, biostatistics, nursing, social work, chemistry, bioethics, and the social sciences. The Centre is well-positioned to make significant contributions in academic research and educational practice to better understand and address the growth of vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Since its launch in May 2019, the Centre has hosted a Vaccine Sciences Symposium, launched a seminar series, developed a post-doc program, and forged local and international links to further research and education across the University. It has also secured funding for a number of initiatives, including a Connaught Global Challenge, with a Summer Institute planned for June 2021. Members of the Centre are highly productive in research and education, and regularly seen in the media. For example, Crowcroft’s expertise in vaccine science was featured by multiple media outlets, including: CBC Metro Morning and The Current, Zoomer TV and Global TV.

“Natasha’s impact on vaccine science – from the molecular to system level – is wide-reaching and I know she will continue to push the boundaries in public health and health system improvement globally in this new role,” said Adalsteinn Brown, Professor and Dean at DLSPH.

During the recruitment of a new Director for the Centre, DLSPH is fortunate to call on the expertise of Dr. Jeff Kwong, who will be the Interim Director. Kwong is a Professor of Epidemiology at DLSPH, a specialist in public health and preventive medicine, and a practicing academic family physician. His research focuses on the interface between primary care and public health, particularly in influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases. He is frequently called on by media often serving as a trusted voice, including for COVID-19.

With more than 25 years’ experience in public health, Crowcroft has experience working at local, national and international levels in several countries and regions. For example, she was a member of the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunization and she worked with the WHO to estimate the global burden of pertussis.

In the role of Senior Technical Advisor – Measles and Rubella Control, Crowcroft will lead the development of global policies and disease control programs for the control of measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome. Working with cross-cutting teams, WHO Regions, member states and partners, she will strengthen global health systems, monitor progress towards global disease elimination and control goals, and support unimmunized or under-immunized populations.

“I can think of very few opportunities that would have attracted me away from the amazing environment of the University of Toronto, but the opportunity to contribute to measles and rubella control at the global level is one I could not miss. I hope this new position will not be the end of my connection with DLSPH, but a new beginning.”