Ward Cates, MD, MPH (1942-2016) served as the director of the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the CDC from 1982 to 1992, revolutionizing the division of sexually transmitted diseases as he worked to integrate the division into the rest of the CDC. He introduced epidemiology as the “basic science” of public health and insisted on bringing scientific rigor to sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention programs. Cates also expanded the work of the division to include STD sequelae, such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy, and played a critical role in defining the contribution of STDs to the spread of HIV, the phenomenon ultimately identified as “epidemiologic synergy.”
From 1992 to 1995, Cates returned to the Epidemic Intelligence Service as director, allowing him to focus on the discipline of epidemiology that was so central to his thinking. He was recruited to Family Health International (now FHI 360), in 1995, and was appointed as president and CEO in 1998. Working at FHI, Cates became a leader in the prevention of HIV. He launched the NIH Prevention Trials Network in (HPTN) 1999, and until his death, he played key roles in virtually every project related to HIV prevention whether behavioral or biological. In his last year, Ward worked tirelessly to promote a randomized controlled trial to better understand the role of hormonal contraception in the acquisition of HIV.