by Paul Nicholson

October is PolioPlus month, and the Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Rotary Now!/leading Change is set to bring you two outstanding presenters — John Hewko, the General Secretary and CEO of Rotary International, and Dr. John Vertefeuille, the Polio Eradication Branch Chief and Incident Manager in the CDC Polio Emergency Response, based in Atlanta. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear from experts in the eradication of polio, so Click Here to Register!

Hewko is uniquely in the center of everything Rotary is doing in the fight against Polio.  Through an interview format with Nelson Maler, District Polio Chair, he will share the latest numbers and talk about efforts being made to eradicate the wild Polio virus from the last two countries in the world.  He will also talk about how Rotary’s polio eradication network provides a structure that will help in the distribution of the COVID vaccine when it is developed.

Dr. Vertefeuille, an eminent scientist and expert from the Center for Disease Control (CDC.), is responsible for overall leadership and programmatic direction of CDC’s global polio activities.  Since early 2017, Dr. Vertefeuille has also served as the chairman of the Eradication and Outbreak Management Group within GPEI, the Interagency Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with six core partners – the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, UNICEF, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.  Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

About John Hewko

From 2004 to 2009, Hewko was vice president for operations and compact development for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency established in 2004 to deliver foreign assistance to the world’s poorest countries. At MCC, he was the principal United States negotiator for foreign assistance agreements to 26 countries in Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. During his tenure, he completed the negotiation of assistance agreements totaling $6.3 billion to 18 countries for infrastructure, agriculture, water and sanitation, health, and education projects.

Prior to joining MCC, Hewko was an international partner with the law firm Baker & McKenzie, specializing in international corporate transactions in emerging markets. He helped establish the firm’s Moscow office and was the managing partner of its offices in Kyiv and Prague. While working in Ukraine in the early 1990s, Hewko assisted the working group that prepared the initial draft of the new Ukrainian post-Soviet constitution and was a charter member of the first Rotary club in Kyiv.

Hewko has been a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has published papers and articles in leading U.S. and international publications, and he has spoken extensively on political and business issues dealing with the former Soviet Union, Central Europe, Africa, and Latin America. He is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.  Hewko holds a law degree from Harvard University, a master’s in modern history from Oxford University (where he studied as a Marshall Scholar), and a bachelor’s in government and Soviet studies from Hamilton College in New York.

About John Vertefeuille

From 2011 to 2013, Dr Vertefeuille was the CDC Country Director for Haiti where he led a team of 55 and managed an annual HIV budget of approximately $90 million and a post-earthquake / cholera budget of $170 million. CDC-Haiti, in collaboration with a wide range of subject matter experts from CDC headquarters and other US government agencies, was focused on expanding access to HIV services and rebuilding the public health infrastructure following the devastating earthquake of January 2010 and the cholera outbreak that began in October of the same year. Priority areas of partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health were HIV, tuberculosis, cholera, vaccine preventable diseases, emergency obstetrics care, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis. In addition, health system elements such as governance, health information systems, and public health laboratory improvements were a major focus of CDC’s engagement in Haiti. ​

From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Vertefeuille was country director for CDC in Tanzania where he led a staff of 65 and managed a portfolio of over $138 million of United States Government global public health investments. The majority of that portfolio includes HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria activities that are implemented by CDC-Tanzania in partnership with other government agencies and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. ​

Prior to joining the Tanzania office, Dr. Vertefeuille served as the CDC-Nigeria Country Director for three years where he oversaw the growth of the CDC program from eight people and $37 million to a 65-person $217 million country office. During his time in Nigeria, he strategically designed interventions to increase access to quality life-saving HIV services, to greatly improve laboratory diagnostics in the country, and guided the outbreak response and the diagnosis of the first human case of H5N1 avian influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. ​

Between 2002 and 2005 he was a Research Assistant Professor with the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and was an adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland medical school where his focus was the epidemiology and prevention of HIV in Nigeria.