We Were There

We Were There

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Welcome to "We Were There"

“We Were There” is a quarterly lecture series featuring past and present CDC investigators – the original Disease Detectives – as they share their personal perspectives on historically important, CDC-led epidemiologic and laboratory investigations. This series will provide insight into the rich past of CDC and give the audience a chance to hear first-hand accounts from the responders.

For more as to how the “We Were There” series came to be – visit our About “We Were There” page.

The Latest "We Were There" Lecture:

Ebola in Zaire, 1976: The Past as Prologue

The Office of Science invites you to the next “We Were There” lecture on September 5, 2019. “We Were There” provides insight into the rich past of CDC and gives the audience a chance to hear first-hand accounts from CDC responders.  This “We Were There” is being presented coincident with the 50th anniversary of the opening of CDC’s high-containment laboratory facilities.


The Ninth "We Were There" Lecture:

Not Everything Is Better with Butter-flavoring: Popcorn Lung Disease and the Dangers of Diacetyl

In 2000, a physician reported that eight former microwave-popcorn factory workers had developed a rare and disabling lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans. Join us to hear a fascinating story of how disease detectives unraveled the mystery of ‘popcorn-lung’ disease, and how we can protect workers from permanent lung damage caused by the butter flavoring diacetyl.


The Eighth "We Were There" Lecture:

Of Mice and Men: Discovering a Deadly Hantavirus in the Americas

Twenty-five years ago, a new and deadly type of Hantavirus swept through parts of southwestern U.S. Join us to hear fascinating stories about the discovery of the Sin Nombre virus and its continued public health impact.


The Seventh "We Were There" Lecture:

How a Rare Cancer Changed the Workplace and Environment

On January 22, 1974, the deaths of 3 employees of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in Louisville, Kentucky, were reported to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The deaths were caused by a rare type of liver cancer, hepatic angiosarcoma. At the time, only 27 Americans a year were diagnosed with it.


The Sixth "We Were There" Lecture:

Toxic Shock Syndrome: A Lasting Legacy

Learn about how a disease outbreak associated with tampon use sickened healthy women in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Listen to CDC’s original disease detectives describe how they unraveled the link between Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and high-absorbency tampons. Learn how their investigations substantially decreased TSS cases and had a lasting impact on public health confidentiality.


The Fifth "We Were There" Lecture:

E. coli   O157

In 1993, four children died and more than 700 people in four states were sickened with severe and often bloody diarrhea. Public health investigators quickly linked the disease outbreaks to E. coli  O157, spread through hamburgers served at fast-food restaurants. Most of the cases occurred in Washington.


The Fourth “We Were There” Lecture:

Conquering Polio in America: The Cutter Incident and Beyond

In 1955, some batches of polio vaccine given to the public contained live polio virus, even though they had passed required safety testing. Over 250 cases of polio were attributed to vaccines produced by one company: Cutter Laboratories. This case, which came to be known as the Cutter Incident, resulted in many cases of paralysis. The vaccine was recalled as soon as cases of polio were detected.


The Third “We Were There” Lecture:

Folic Acid, Birth Defects and Perspectives from China

In the late 1980s, researchers at CDC made a discovery that would prove to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of public health. While performing a population-based study on birth defects, investigators found that folic acid in a multivitamin could reduce the risk of neural tube defects.


The Second "We Were There" Lecture:

History, Mystery, and Discovery: 40 Years of Legionnaires’ Disease

In 1976, more than 200 attendees of an American Legion convention in Philadelphia fell ill, and dozens died. Doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause of this mysterious and deadly outbreak. CDC’s disease detectives went to work, and though it took several months and countless hours, the responsible pathogen was eventually identified.


"We Were There" Inaugural Lecture:

“And the Band Played On… Early Days of the AIDS Epidemic in the United States: Views from Atlanta and Hollywood”

On May 25, 2016, OADS offered the first in the “We Were There” lecture series. The inaugural event, “And the Band Played On…Early Days of the AIDS Epidemic in the United States: Views from Atlanta and Hollywood,” commemorated the 35th anniversary of the first AIDS MMWR article with a presentation by Dr. Harold Jaffe and Dr. Jim Curran.


Page last reviewed: September 11, 2019
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