icddr,b alumnus and member of its Scientific Advisory Group Professor James F. Phillips awarded Carl S Schultz Lifetime Achievement Award 2020


An icddr,b scientific advisory group (SAG) member, Professor James F. Phillips, has received the 2020 Carl S. Schultz Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Health Association in recognition of his work on health systems research and policy development in Asia and Africa. This award honours individuals who have made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the field of population and reproductive health.


In the 1980s, Professor Phillips was the principal investigator of icddr,b’s Matlab Family Planning Health Services Project, where he directed a study that developed and tested methods for improving access to primary healthcare in a rural and impoverished locality of deltaic Bangladesh. When results showed that childhood survival and family planning were improved by programme activities, Professor Phillips engaged in a programme of research and action that was designed to apply research to accelerating the scale-up of community-based primary healthcare in Bangladesh. Known at icddr,b as the MCH-FP Extension Project, strategies developed for that programme have since been used around the world.


Professor James Phillips (R) directed a primary healthcare study in Matlab, Bangladesh. 


In reflecting on his time in Bangladesh, Professor Phillips has noted “Everything that was achieved in Bangladesh was the consequence of effective institutional support and collaboration. I often think of the many lessons that were learned, the most important of which is the need to guide decisions with evidence. I believe that icddr,b has repeatedly demonstrated that pursuing conventional wisdom is not always wise. Solid science, through trial and investigation, is critical to getting the right policies in place and identifying the appropriate actions to pursue. Partnership between the Government of Bangladesh and icddr,b’s research community accounts for much of the progress that has been achieved in health development. It was a great honour to be part of this strategic partnership”.


Professor James Phillips (L) at Matlab Hospital, Bangladesh.


The advancement of health development that was achieved in Bangladesh was shared with a team from Ghana in 1993. The exchange was organised by Professors Phillips and Professor Fred Binka and led at icddr,b by Dr Muhammad Yunus. Successful replication of the Matlab service model in Ghana was subsequently disseminated from Ghana to neighbouring African countries. Professor Binka, who led this international exchange, recently joined the icddr,b SAG.    


Professor Phillips is currently an Emeritus Professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.