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The Carter Center Appoints Trachoma Control Program Director

Contact: Emily Staub

Atlanta....Paul Emerson, Ph.D., joins The Carter Center as technical director of its Trachoma Control Program, a program dedicated to prevention of unnecessary blindness caused by a bacterial infection.

"Dr. Emerson brings a broad portfolio of experience in trachoma control and in designing interventions that work at the community level," said John Hardman, M.D., Carter Center executive director. "He has both the international experience and the research background to help The Carter Center prevent this debilitating disease."

Before joining The Carter Center, Dr. Emerson was a research fellow at the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. There he was the principal investigator for evaluations of Helen Keller International and World Vision trachoma control programs in Morocco, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nepal, Vietnam, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, in addition to leading operational research in The Gambia and lecturing.

Previously, as principal investigator, Dr. Emerson led the United Kingdom Medical Research Council in The Gambia in conducting the first rigorous study establishing the importance of flies in trachoma transmission and the impact of latrines on trachoma control. He also has led a project to write a practical toolbox for trachoma program managers to implement the 'F' and 'E' components of the SAFE strategy for trachoma control: Surgery; Antibiotics treatment; Facial cleanliness/hygiene promotion; and Environmental improvement.

"Trachoma is a disease that we can both prevent and treat," said Dr. Emerson. "In a world where solutions to so many problems seem out of reach, we have an amazing opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of millions who are affected by trachoma. My hope is that The Carter Center will be able to lead by example at the cutting edge of trachoma control, both through implementing innovative and inclusive programs and by conducting the research necessary to strengthen the evidence base and improve program delivery."

Dr. Emerson holds a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Durham and a master's degree in applied parasitology and medical entomology from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Royal Entomological Society. As technical director of the Carter Center's Trachoma Control Program, Dr. Emerson succeeds James A. Zingeser, D.V.M., M.P.H., who served as the program's director from 1998 to 2004.

Trachoma is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness. The World Health Organization estimates that 15 percent of all blindness in the world is caused by trachoma. Only cataracts cause more blindness worldwide but, unlike cataracts, trachoma can be prevented through improvements in personal and environmental hygiene. Trachoma is a bacterial infection, which is easily spread from person to person. If a person suffers repeated infections over a period of years, scar tissue forms on the inside of their eyelids. The scar then contracts, causing the eyelashes to turn inward, often resulting in painful abrasion of the cornea and, in severe cases, untreatable blindness.

Today, almost all of the 146 million people who suffer from trachoma live in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The public health and economic impact of trachoma is enormous, doing harm to entire communities. Less than 20 percent of farmers blinded from trachoma are able to farm. The Carter Center's Trachoma Control Program works with ministries of health and other partners in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sudan to promote improvements in personal and environmental sanitation and to deliver antibiotics to people at risk for blinding trachoma. The Trachoma Control Program also worked in Yemen from 2000-2003. The Carter Center's work in preventing blindness from trachoma is made possible through generous grants from Lions Clubs International, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Pfizer Inc.


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center. 

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