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Telford H. Work Papers 1938-1990
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Biography

Biographical Note

Dr. Telford Hindley Work was born in Selma, California on July 11, 1921. He received his primary and secondary education from Los Angeles schools. After graduating from high school, Work enrolled at Stanford University. A biology major, he spent much of his time devoted to his studies. While still an undergraduate at Stanford, he began a project studying the nesting habits of the Turkey Vulture. This project, supported by the Stanford Museum of Natural History, lead to his first publication in the journal The Condor in 1942.

Work graduated from Stanford in 1942 with his degree in biology and was accepted at Stanford Medical School, graduating in 1945. Upon graduating, he accepted a position with the U.S. Navy. After basic training, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Monongahela, an oil tanker that traveled from the Middle East to Japan. The time Work spent traveling between the two areas greatly influenced him and ultimately lead to research in the field of tropical medicine. When his service with the Navy was complete, he went to London and enrolled in the London School Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and graduated a year later with his degree in tropical medicine. Upon finishing his degree, he accompanied Sir Phillip Manson-Bahr to Fiji where he spent the next two years studying filariasis and mosquitoes. At the completion of this project, Work returned to the US where he enrolled at John Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, receiving a Master of Public Health in 1952.

Work then accepted an offer from the Rockefeller Foundation to join their arbovirus research program. He spent the first five months working in the laboratory in New York before being assigned to work with Dr. Richard Taylor in Cairo, Egypt. During this time they worked in the small village of Sindbis and were able to isolate both West Nile and Sindbis viruses from birds in the area. This was one of the first times that the role birds have in transmitting arboviruses had been documented.

In 1955, Work was assigned to Poona, India by the Rockefeller Foundation where he served as director of the Virus Research Center and oversaw the building of the facility. He also aided with the investigation of several epidemics including New Delhi hepatitis and Jamshedpur Fever, now known as Reye's Syndrome. In 1957, while working in the Mysore District of India, he isolated the Kyasanur Forest Disease, a hemorrhagic fever transmitted by ticks. His work, along with that of others, proved the relationship of the virus to several other encephalitis outbreaks.

Work returned to the New York Laboratory of the Rockefeller Foundation in 1960. He along with Dr. Taylor, started the Arbovirus Information Exchange newsletter and served as its first editor. Shortly after returning to the US, Work received a Congressional appointment to head the virology section for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). During his tenure he oversaw several investigations. These included the 1962 outbreak of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) among Seminoles in the Florida Everglades, the 1964 outbreak of Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE) in Texas, and the 1965 VEE outbreaks in the Mid-Atlantic. Along with his team, he was able to isolate the virus, now known as the Everglades virus, from mosquitoes in Everglades National Park. Their investigations and studies lead to the isolation of several other viruses. They also traveled to the former Soviet as part of a joint discussion between the U.S. and the USSR on tick-borne encephalitis.

Work returned to his home state in 1967 when he accepted a position as professor of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and head of the department. While he devoted himself to sharing his knowledge and experience with future generations, he continued to study tropical diseases both at home and abroad. Taking a sabbatical in 1978, Work and his wife, Dr. Martine Jozan Work, traveled to Australia to investigate an outbreak of Murray Valley Encephalitis in the Kimberley area. Work took another sabbatical in 1988 traveling Argentina during outbreaks of dengue (on the border with Paraguay) and yellow fever (Brazil). Work remained at UCLA until his retirement in 1991.

During his world travels, Work found time to participate in one of his favorite hobbies, photography. Work took a great interest in nature and the flora and fauna that he observed. He photographed and filmed many of the sites he visited. As a member of the Audubon Society, Work presented several lectures using the films he produced. He also contributed many of his photographs and reports to National Geographic Magazine.

As a leading epidemiologist, Work achieved much recognition. He was elected as a member of the American Epidemiological Society in 1962, served as the president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) from 1969-1970, and as chair of the Epidemiology Disease Control Section of the National Institutes of Health during the 1970s. In 1981, he received the Richard Moreland Taylor Award from the American Committee on Arthropod-Borne Viruses. The award was established in 1966 as a way to recognize dedication and contributions to virology and epidemiology of arthropod-borne viruses is named after Work's colleague, mentor, and friend Dr. Richard Taylor, who was the first to receive the award. Telford H. Work died in his home on February 6, 1995.