Science, Politics, and Pandemic: Dr. Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s Leading Health Policy Expert, on Why There Has Never Been a More Crucial Time for Scientists to be Engaged in Politics
The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every country since it was first reported in China last December. Globally, the number of cases has surpassed 18 million, with a cumulative death toll of 700,000 as of August 4, 2020. Germany’s approach to handling this public health crisis has been hailed as one of the most successful. Thus far, it has largely managed to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. By June 1, 2020 it had recorded 181,815 cases and 8,511 deaths. Germany’s mortality rate is among the lowest in Europe and the world, estimated at 11.1 deaths per 100,000 population (current as of Aug 12, 2020). Starting in May, it has begun a gradual and closely monitored re-opening after nearly three months of strict lockdown.
To discuss Germany’s exemplary response to COVID-19, the Voices in Leadership series invited Dr. Karl Lauterbach, professor of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Cologne in Germany, to be interviewed by Professor John E. McDonough, Professor of Public Health Practice in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Lauterbach studied medicine at RWTHAachen University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of Düsseldorf, followed by epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He was elected to the Deutscher Bundestag (the German Federal Parliament) in 2005 as a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Currently, Dr. Lauterbach is an adjunct professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Road from Medicine to Politics
Professor McDonough started the session by asking Dr. Lauterbach about his unusual career path from medicine to politics. “I was always interested in issues of justice in health care and prevention in healthcare”, Dr. Lauterbach explained. As a gifted student from a working-class background, Dr. Lauterbach made a last-minute change to study medicine at university. He became interested in what made people ill and what can be done to…