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Column: Atlanta organizations making progress against trachoma

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on November 8, 2013

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Decatur-based International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) at a celebration at Pfizer headquarters in Manhattan on Nov. 5.

Pfizer, through ITI, has donated more than 340 million doses of the antibiotic Zithromax to prevent and treat the blinding disease as part of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020. The Alliance is led by the World Health Organization.

“The Pfizer donation of Zithromax was momentous in trachoma control, and The Carter Center was pleased to go to scale in trachoma endemic countries to get the medicine into the villages and demonstrate the world could end blinding trachoma,” Carter said during the celebration that included partner organizations and Pfizer employees.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Ian Read said the company was gratified about the progress that had been made, and added: “I speak for the entire Pfizer community in reiterating our desire, along with partners like the Carter Center and ITI, to helping end the suffering by 2020.”

ITI has managed the distribution of the antibiotic to 28 countries in Africa and Asia since 1998.

“Trachoma brings extraordinary human suffering and economic devastation to tens of millions of people, mostly women and children in poorer countries,” said Mark Rosenberg, interim director of ITI. “It can be prevented, treated and eliminated.”

An estimated 320 million people worldwide are at risk for contracting trachoma. About 7 million people currently suffer from advanced, blinding stages of the disease.

Although the celebration was held in New York City, both the Carter Center and ITI, part of the Task Force for Global Health, are based in metro Atlanta.

Council on Competitiveness

Georgia leaders continue to have special links to the national Council on Competitiveness, founded in 1986 to make the United States as economically productive a nation as possible.

The Council held an invitation-only dinner at the Atlanta History Center Nov. 5 to honor two Georgia business leaders along with their spouses.

John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, and his wife, Mary Brock, received the America Competes Award for Public Service. The Brocks were recognized for their gifts and involvement with Georgia Tech, Emory, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Hughes Spalding, the Atlanta Dream, Spelman College and Grady Hospital.

The Brocks were introduced by Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, who serves on the Council’s board.

Scott Davis, CEO of United Parcel Service, received the America Competes Award for Corporate Leadership, an award that was shared with his wife, Brenda.

The introduction was given by Duane Ackerman, formerly CEO of BellSouth Corp., who serves on the UPS board and who chaired the Council on Competitiveness from 2001 to 2005.

Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council, highlighted many of her organization’s ties to Atlanta, including the influential role that former Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough played in chairing the National Innovation Initiative.

National Philanthropy Day

The nearly 1,000 people attending the National Philanthropy Day luncheon at the Georgia Aquarium on Nov. 5 were surprisingly moved by the candor of Lou Brown Jewell — the recipient of the 2013 Philanthropist of the Year Award.

She was honored for her many donations to organizations serving people with Alzheimer’s such as Visiting Nurses and research institutions working on treatments and possible cures, such as Emory University as well as Berry College.

“I have had two husbands with dementia,” Jewell said freely. “My first husband was Worley Brown, the CEO of Rock-Tenn, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.” In the last five years of his life, he needed around-the-clock care.

Her second husband, Tom, died just three months ago. Jewell told the audience how he complained when she took away his car, then his guns and then she put him in a prison. (She quickly added they had moved to a very nice retirement community.)

Lastly, she spoke of a son who “got into drugs big time.” Speaking of him in past tense, she said: “we had nine years of hell.”

Her life had been filled with both good times and pain. She told the crowd that she couldn’t believe she was being honored for “doing something that gives me such joy.”

Smyrna Rotary

The Smyrna Rotary Club celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 5 at the Georgian Club — commemorating its contributions to the global eradication of polio, providing clean drinking water to the Caribbean, supplying shelter to families displaced by tragedies in Haiti and Syria, and supporting adult education and literacy initiatives in Smyrna and Cobb County.

Anne Matthews, the first female vice president of Rotary International, gave the keynote speech at the event. She also honored the club’s lone remaining charter member — Samuel Whitfield — by inducting him into the organization’s Arch Klumph Society.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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