The Bob Keegan Polio Eradication Heroes Fund recognizes health workers and volunteers who have incurred serious injury or lost their lives as a direct consequence of their participation in polio eradication activities. The families of the workers, who have been the victims of automobile crashes, military conflicts and other life-threatening events, receive a certificate recognizing the victim’s heroic commitment to polio eradication and a cash tribute.
The fund was established in June 2000 in partnership with major polio eradication partners. Robert "Bob" Keegan was the first contributor, donating the award money he received when we was recognized with CDC's distinguished William C. Watson Jr. Medal of Excellence. Keegan remained the fund's strongest advocate. When he retired from CDC in May 2007, he completed a bike ride across the U.S. from Florence, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia – 4,165 miles – to raise awareness and dollars for the polio eradication initiatives of the CDC Foundation and Rotary International. When Keegan passed away in January 2012, the CDC Foundation renamed this fund in his honor to express our gratitude for his extraordinary leadership and dedication.
"In my mind, this CDC Foundation fund is an extraordinary example of leveraging small amounts of funding to do a tremendous amount of good," said Keegan in a 2005 interview. "When you see a child paralyzed with polio, and you realize that it's totally preventable with existing vaccines, there's a high level of motivation to get involved and make a difference."
About Bob Keegan
Bob Keegan retired from CDC in 2007 after nearly 33 years of service. He spent the first 11 years of his career in STD control. In addition, Keegan helped to investigate Legionnaire's Disease in New York City’s Garment District in the late 1970s; worked to locate non-responders in Fulton County, GA, as part of Agent Orange studies in 1982; and helped to develop the first pre- and post-test counseling for HIV/AIDS.
From 1985–1990, Keegan coordinated CDC’s refugee health activities in Southeast Asia, helping to assure that refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were immunized and treated for communicable diseases. In 1991, he joined the newly formed Polio Eradication Activity, which had a staff of six and an annual budget of $3 million. Since that time, the activity has grown to become CDC's Global Immunization Division (GID), with a staff of 110, and an annual budget of more than $150 million. GID has expanded to include measles mortality reduction and regional elimination, routine immunization systems strengthening, and new vaccine introduction.
Keegan’s leadership, energy and innovation played a pivotal role in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and in accelerated global measles control and regional measles elimination initiatives. He was an outstanding mentor and technical consultant on program management and operational issues for CDC and WHO. In all his endeavors and accomplishments, Keegan demonstrated outstanding diplomacy, sensitivity and social and interpersonal skills as a CDC ambassador on global immunization to international organizations, governments and global health leaders. He was a true humanitarian who championed global sustainable development and health equity.
Keegan was a recipient of the William C. Watson Jr. Medal of Excellence and the Public Health Advisor of the Year Award from the Watsonian Society. He also received the U.S. Public Health Service Special Recognition Award (1995) for his significant achievements and service in global public health programs. He was also honored as the winner of the Philip Horne Award from CDC’s National Immunization Program (2003) and recipient of a special CDC Foundation 10th Anniversary Public Health Hero Recognition.