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FHI 360 mourns the death of Willard (Ward) Cates Jr. - international leader in reproductive health and HIV prevention research

March 18, 2016

DURHAM, NC — FHI 360 is deeply saddened to announce the death of our dear friend and colleague Willard (Ward) Cates Jr., MD, MPH, Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus of FHI 360.

Dr. Cates, who joined FHI 360 (then FHI) in 1994, passed away on March 17th, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

“The world has lost a true leader and visionary,” said Patrick Fine, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360. Dr. Cates had a distinguished career, spanning more than 40 years in the fields of women's health, prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, contraceptive technology and reproductive health services. “The health advances for which Ward Cates has been responsible will continue to have a global impact for years to come. He was a man who exemplified the idea that one person can make a world of difference.”

At FHI 360, Dr. Cates helped design groundbreaking studies and implement programs on the prevention of both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. He also led FHI 360’s extensive biomedical HIV prevention research efforts, first with barrier methods and topical agents, and then through the use of oral products. 

Before joining FHI 360, Dr. Cates spent two decades at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he helped lead its family planning, STD/HIV and epidemiology training units. 

Dr. Cates served on countless distinguished government, academic and private scientific advisory and review committees. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine and past president of both the Society for Epidemiologic Research and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. He served on the executive boards of the American Public Health Association, the American STD Association and the American College of Preventive Medicine. He was also director of a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre both at CDC and at FHI 360 and chaired the executive committee of the U.S. National Institutes of Health HIV Prevention Trials Network for more than a decade. In addition, he served on the scientific advisory committee for the Office of Global AIDS Coordination, the scientific advisory committee of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the advisory council of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

A prolific scientist and writer, Dr. Cates authored or co-authored more than 450 scientific publications, including 170 original contributions, and served on the editorial boards of eight scientific journals. “He was passionate about creating, sharing and using knowledge,” said Fine. “His service to the public health community and to FHI 360 has been remarkable.” 

Most recently awarded the distinguished 2015 Allan Rosenfield Award for Lifetime Contributions to International Family Planning from The Society of Family Planning, Dr. Cates received many honors during his distinguished career, including the Shultz Award from the American Public Health Association for his research contributing to the health of American women; the EEO Award from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, respectively, for his contributions to gender and diversity among his staff; the American STD Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Yale School of Public Health’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was an honorary fellow of the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and was awarded an Outstanding Contribution to Science honor by the South African Department of Science and Technology.

“Ward Cates has left a remarkable legacy,” said Fine. “His deep passion, boundless energy and profound commitment to advancing the science that improves lives should serve as an inspiration to us all.” 

Dr. Cates lived in Chapel Hill, NC, and is survived by his wife, Joan Roberts Cates; two daughters, Deborah Cates Knighton (Tim) and Sarah Cates Parker (Andy); and four grandchildren, Charles Watts Knighton, Henry Sands Knighton, Katherine Elizabeth Parker, and Addison Margaret Parker.  

FHI 360 extends its heartfelt sympathies to the Cates family.