February 6, 2017 | HILLEMAN: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children | Bloomsburg, PA
For those who don’t know his name, Hilleman is responsible for vaccine research that saves more than 8 million lives every year going back as far as the early 1960s.
Like a sentinel, the dome of Carver Hall stands watch over Bloomsburg from the top of Main Street, and houses the unique K.S. Gross Auditorium with its stained glass skylight and horseshoe balcony. As I look out at the crowd that has gathered I’m struck by a lack of young faces, especially on this campus with a student body of nearly 10,000. The auditorium is a venue that transports one back in time, and yet manages to deliver modern-day projection and sound. It’s the perfect setting to discover a scientific giant of the 20th Century like Maurice Hilleman, a man unknown to virtually all who attend tonight’s screening, and yet whose work remains intimately ensconced in the very blood of each and every one of them.
For those who don’t know his name, Hilleman is responsible for vaccine research that saves more than 8 million lives every year going back as far as the early 1960s. In fact, if you’re alive today you almost certainly have the benefit of at least one of Dr. Hilleman’s many advances circulating through your body. Ever had meningitis, pneumonia, or hepatitis B? If not it’s likely because his vaccines taught your immune system to recognize and dispatch those infections before they can even show symptoms of disease. You know how influenza changes every year, requiring us to get a new vaccine each fall? The reason you know that is because in 1950 Dr. Hilleman figured it out, discovering that influenza viruses are constantly mutating. Remember when you and all your friends had measles, mumps, and rubella? Probably not, right? Again, you can thank Maurice Hilleman for that.
The saying goes, “When prevention works, nothing happens.” And with infectious disease, we’ve had a whole lot of nothing happening for a long time now. Hilleman can claim credit for that fact. The vast majority of attendees at tonight’s screening are old enough to remember the many diseases he conquered. The irony is that it’s those that aren’t here who may have the most to gain from his story.
Post by touring filmmaker Donald Rayne Mitchell