Gillings alumnus Handzel named CDC’s global water, sanitation and hygiene coordinator

June 15, 2020

Dr. Tom Handzel

Dr. Tom Handzel

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently appointed Tom Handzel, PhD, as global WASH coordinator at their Center for Global Health. (WASH stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.)

Handzel, who earned both master’s and doctoral degrees from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, will support CDC programs engaged in WASH initiatives and will coordinate with external partners. No stranger to collaboration, he brings 24 years of experience supporting public health programs — including WASH — in emergency and recovery settings.

Joining the CDC in 2000, Handzel worked on the front lines of public health as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. There, he led efforts to investigate and prevent lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and Guinea worm disease.

Handzel joined the Emergency Response and Recovery Branch in 2002, focusing on WASH issues in humanitarian emergencies. He has led the Global WASH Team since 2015, coordinating WASH activities during humanitarian crises, waterborne disease outbreaks and natural disasters. He also oversees WASH activities related to the Global Health Security Agenda, works with other U.S. government and multilateral agencies, and is the focal point for CDC’s WASH activities in the Global Taskforce for Cholera Control.

Across his lifetime, Handzel also prepared for this role through time spent in Cameroon with the U.S. Peace Corps; work with NGOs supervising WASH projects in Madagascar, Cambodia, Haiti and Tanzania; and a stint as research fellow and consultant for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. He has extensive experience conducting operations research in epidemiology, water and sanitation, and environmental microbiology.

Handzel replaces Capt. Rick Gelting, who had served as Global WASH Coordinator since 2017. In addition to his duties in this new role, Handzel will continue to work in the Center for Global Health’s Emergency Response and Recovery Branch.


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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