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William Schaffner - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

William Schaffner William Schaffner

Professor of Preventative Medicine | Vanderbilt University


Internationally renowned infectious disease specialist and public health expert.





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Schaffner is Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Health Policy as well as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

After graduating from Yale in 1957, Schaffner attended the University of Freiburg, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1962 and completed residency training and a Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt. He then was commissioned in the U.S. Public Health Service as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for two years. While with the CDC, Schaffner became intimately familiar with public health and investigated outbreaks of communicable diseases both in the United States and abroad. These experiences were a formative stimulus for his subsequent career. He returned to Vanderbilt after that tour of duty, joining the faculty and establishing a long collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Health.

Schaffner's primary interest has been the prevention of infectious diseases. He is a strong proponent of collaboration between academic medical centers and public health institutions. He has worked extensively on the effective use of vaccines in both pediatric and adult populations and has been a member of numerous expert advisory committees that establish national vaccine policy.

Schaffner is past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and has served on the Executive Board for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Schaffner is committed to communicating about medicine to the general public. He regards this as a teaching opportunity. As such, he often is invited to comment in local and national media on communicable disease issues, translating research advances and public health events into language that the public can understand.

Areas of Expertise (17)


Preventive Medicine

Swine Flu



Necrotizing fasciitis

Vaccine Safety

Immunization Policy

Infectious Disease



Flesh-eating bacteria

Brain amoebas


Bird Flu



Accomplishments (5)

CDC Honor Award, Asian Avian Influenza Response Team (professional)


William J. Darby Award, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (professional)


Master, American College of Physicians, Elected by Board of Regents (professional)


The William Schaffner Teaching Award in Infectious Diseases, Established by the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (professional)


Society of Healthcare Epidemiology (SHEA) Lecturer Award (professional)


Education (4)

Vanderbilt University: Chief Residency 1969

Vanderbilt University: Residency 1964

Cornell University Medical College: Medical School 1962

Yale University: Undergraduate 1957

Selected Media Appearances (4)

Dr. William Schaffner: Remdesivir is a ‘firm first step’ for a Covid-19 treatment

MSNBC  online


Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells Lawrence O’Donnell that “the journey is still long” to finding a cure for Covid-19, but remdesivir is the first drug showing promising results for treating the virus.

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People Are Misusing Antibiotics, New Study Reveals

Consumer Reports  online


Finally, if you’re buying antibiotics online or “under the counter” at, say, a local flea market, you can’t be sure what you’re getting. “It could be an antibiotic, or it could be something completely different—you have no way of knowing,” says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

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Vanderbilt doctors: Flesh-eating bacteria quick to develop, difficult to diagnose

FOX17 Nashville  online


Vanderbilt Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. William Schaffner said once flesh eating bacteria gets underneath the skin, muscle tissue is irreversibly destroyed. “The surgery has to take all that destroyed muscle out,” said Dr. William Schaffner. “People are often left with a disability after they recover.”

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Why We Don't Know More About Rare Polio-Like Illness

Healthline  online


The leading candidate, according to experts in the field, is known as enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68), although the link between the virus and AFM hasn’t been conclusively established. “That will be the one that most folks expect might be the culprit, but we don’t know yet for sure,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee.

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Selected Articles (3)

Outcomes of immunocompromised adults hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza in the United States, 2011–2015 Clinical Infectious Diseases

Jennifer P Collins, Angela P Campbell, Kyle Openo, Monica M Farley, Charisse Nitura Cummings, Mary Hill, William Schaffner, Mary Lou Lindegren, Ann Thomas, Laurie Billing, Nancy Bennett, Nancy Spina, Marisa Bargsten, Ruth Lynfield, Seth Eckel, Patricia Ryan, Kimberly Yousey-Hindes, Rachel Herlihy, Pam Daily Kirley, Shikha Garg, Evan J Anderson

2019 Hospitalized immunocompromised (IC) adults with influenza may have worse outcomes than hospitalized non-immunocompromised adults.

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Racial Disparities in Adult Pneumococcal Vaccination Indications and Pneumococcal Hospitalizations in the US Journal of the National Medical Association

Mary Patricia Nowalk, Angela R Wateska, Chyongchiou Jeng Lin, William Schaffner, Lee H Harrison, Richard K Zimmerman, Kenneth J Smith

2019 Racial disparities in U.S. adult pneumococcal vaccination rates persist despite reduced barriers to access. Consequently, racial and ethnic minorities experience pneumococcal disease at higher rates than whites. This study examined prevalence of high-risk conditions and pneumococcal hospitalizations among U.S. black and non-black populations aged ≥50 years.

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Age-Related Differences in Hospitalization Rates, Clinical Presentation, and Outcomes Among Older Adults Hospitalized With Influenza—U.S. Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network Open Forum Infectious Diseases

Christopher A Czaja, Lisa Miller, Nisha Alden, Heidi L Wald, Charisse Nitura Cummings, Melissa A Rolfes, Evan J Anderson, Nancy M Bennett, Laurie M Billing, Shua J Chai, Seth Eckel, Robert Mansmann, Melissa McMahon, Maya L Monroe, Alison Muse, Ilene Risk, William Schaffner, Ann R Thomas, Kimberly Yousey-Hindes, Shikha Garg, Rachel K Herlihy

2019 Rates of influenza hospitalizations differ by age, but few data are available regarding differences in laboratory-confirmed rates among adults aged ≥65 years.

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