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Walden Magazine // Feb 01, 2012

Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for Outstanding Dissertation: Preventing Pandemics

Dr. Christopher Hinnerichs was awarded for his research on influenza-like illness.

February 2012—How do you prevent bioterrorism? The first step is to locate it. Bioterrorism is defined as an act or threat to demoralize or subjugate by using deadly microorganisms or toxins. It’s not a new concept, but it has been adapted. Historically, infectious diseases have killed far more people during wartime than the battles themselves. And since travel and trade are innate to globalization, the potential for transmission is now even greater to larger populations.
Dr. Christopher Hinnerichs ’11, a PhD in Public Health graduate, was awarded Walden University's Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for his dissertation, Efficacy of Fixed Infrared Thermography for Identification of Subjects with Influenza like Illness, which offers the use of infrared thermography as a plausible screening solution for the identification of febrile-disease pandemic threats and the potential occurrence of biological terrorism.
Infrared thermography is a tool that can screen participants’ temperatures. Dr. Hinnerichs’ research compared these readings to laboratory diagnostics to confirm the presence or absence of influenza-like illness. Results showed that infrared thermography can differentiate between healthy and feverish participants 91% of the time, excellent efficacy in a study setting that included 320 participants from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines who were identified as exceeding a threshold limit. Additionally, the study found little variation among results for males or females.
His dissertation chair and the recipient of the Bernard L. Turner Award, Dr. Angela Prehn, was impressed with his findings. “He found that the accuracy of the readings was not affected by gender,” she explains. “This is good news because it means that infrared thermography is effective in detecting fever in both women and men and therefore might be a good surveillance tool for the general public.”

Ultimately, Hinnerichs’ findings could provide senior public health decision-makers with informed knowledge of infrared thermography for rapid screenings in public settings.

Harold L. Hodgkinson Award

This award is bestowed annually upon a Walden graduate whose dissertation is judged as meeting the highest university standards of academic excellence. The award honors the life of dedication and the distinguished career of one of the nation’s foremost experts in demography, Dr. Harold L. Hodgkinson. It also recognizes Hodgkinson’s instrumental role in the establishment and academic development of Walden University.
Read about past recipients of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award.