In Memoriam: Joseph A. Cook, MD, FASTMH.

Posted 10 October 2022

(Photo courtesy Cremation Society of the Carolinas - Raleigh) 

The Society mourns the loss of 1987 President Joseph A. Cook, MD, FASTMH. He died in Pittsboro, NC, on October 1, 2022 at age 87. Dr. Cook was the founding director of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) and served on advisory committees in the U.S. and for the WHO. In 2002, the French International Agency against Trachoma awarded him The Grande Medaille d'Or. He also received the Society's Donald Mackay Medal in 2001 "for outstanding work in tropical health, especially relating to improvements in the health of rural or urban workers in the tropics. Preference is given to medically qualified individuals.".

Dr. Cook's obituary can be found here.

He attended the University of Oklahoma on an NROTC scholarship, graduating in 1952. Following graduation, he served as a line officer on the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39) for three years. After a year in Washington, D.C. he left the Navy as a Lieutenant to attend Vanderbilt Medical School. He was President of his graduating class (1964) and elected to the medical honorary society, Alpha Omega Alpha. A week following graduation, he married Elizabeth (Betty Anne) Curtis.

After internship and residency at UNC Chapel Hill, NC, and a final year at Harvard School of Public Health in Infectious Tropical Diseases, he joined the Rockefeller Foundation on a project in St. Lucia for the control of Schistosomiasis, where he was in charge of clinical and field studies. The project ended in 1981; the findings and success of his work on clinical and chemotherapy served as the foundation for later and current Schistosomiasis control programs in Africa.

Joe joined the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in 1978 where he directed the program in Tropical Disease Research for the next 24 years. He was the founding director of the International Trachoma Initiative (, an outgrowth of the Clark Foundation's research, supported by the foundation and Pfizer. ITI now has programs to eliminate blinding trachoma in over 50 countries; according to the World Health Organization, 14 countries have eliminated this major cause of preventable blindness.