National Medical Association Professional Development Series

Sonja S. Hutchins, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H.

Dr. Sonja Hutchins is a retired Captain (Medical Director) in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS).  She retired in June 2017 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Senior Medical Advisor in the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE).  She first joined the CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer (EIS) in June 1986 at the beginning of measles resurgences in the United States.  She initially played a key role in the description, prevention, and control of the new measles epidemiology: a disease primarily among unvaccinated preschool children living in large inner cities and whose parents could not afford to pay for vaccinations because of low income.  In addition to measles prevention, Dr. Hutchins played a key role in preventing and controlling other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis and diphtheria, largely through creating science that informed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).  During her service at the CDC, she held leadership positions in the National Immunization Program, the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and the OMHHE.  Dr. Hutchins, as well as the teams she led, played key roles in the elimination of endemic circulation of measles from the United States; achievement of high, up-to-date vaccination of all children; elimination of child vaccination disparities; in addition to preparedness and response to bioterrorism, public health emergencies and climate change, particularly among the most vulnerable populations in society.

While in the OMHHE, Dr. Hutchins also served as the Acting Associate Director for Science, Associate Director for Medical Science and Co-Chairperson of the CDC Health Equity Workgroup.  Because of her accomplishments, the USPHS awarded Dr. Hutchins numerous honor and service medals, including the Outstanding Service Medal and Foreign Duty Service awards.  She is actually the first African American female to enter the EIS program and complete a 30-year career as a Commissioned Corps Officer in the USPHS who was stationed entirely at the CDC, given that African American females began entering the EIS program more than a decade before her in the early 1970s.  Her CDC contributions are also recognized by a new Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award.  While at the CDC, Dr. Hutchins also enriched her professional experiences through membership, leadership and participation in scientific programs of the National Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Preventive Medicine.     She treasures these experiences because of their enormous growth opportunities.

While retired from the CDC, Dr. Hutchins is currently the Director of the Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program at Morehouse School Medicine and Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine.  In these positions, she increases the diversity of and leadership in the public health and preventive medicine physician workforce, teaches medical students about the social determinants of health through active- and service- learning, and directs research that improves population health by eliminating disparities to create and advance health equity. She has approximately 90 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Hutchins received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with honors (cum laude) from Cornell University, a Doctor of Medicine with honors from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, a Master of Public Health in Immunology and Infectious Diseases from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and a Doctor of Public Health in Epidemiology and Public Health Leadership from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill.  Her residency training was in internal medicine at Washington Hospital Center and Preventive Medicine at Johns Hopkins.  In addition to the terminal degree in public health, she is board certified in the medical specialty of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Hutchins’s avocations include worshiping at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, active involvement in their Health Ministry, in addition to serving as the Advancement Committee Chairperson for Scout BSA Troop #213.  Her goal is to create diverse leadership through attainment of the Eagle Scout rank by African American males and their membership in the National Eagle Scout Association.