CNN’s go-to health expert: Dr. William Schaffner

Ziyi Liu

When CNN needs a health expert’s input on the latest disease outbreak, they call Vanderbilt’s Dr. William Schaffner, an internist and infectious disease specialist who has been with Vanderbilt since he began his residency in June of 1962. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Dr. Schaffner worked with the United States Public Health Service, the Center for Disease Control and the State Health Department of Rhode Island.

During his time with the university he has taught, led the Medical Center’s infection control program for 10 years, and was the chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, now called the Department of Health Policy, for 31 years. He still works in the department as a professor of preventive medicine.

Schaffner’s initial inspiration for becoming a doctor was his childhood physician, Dr. Tidwell, who would come to Schaffner’s home on house calls and treat his family. Although there were no previous doctors in his family, Schaffner’s fascination with Tidwell set the stage for his life.

“I just was attracted to that and I thought that was the neatest thing and resolved actually as a fairly young child that that was what I wanted to do,” he stated.