William Schaffner, M.D.

Professor, Preventive Medicine
Health Policy
Division of Infectious Diseases
Office Address
2525 WEA
2525 West End Ave.
(615) 322-2037

Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, Preventative Medicine, Immunization Policy


Dr. William Schaffner is Professor of Preventive Medicine with a primary appointment in the Department of Health Policy as well as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

After graduating from Yale in 1957, Schaffner attended the University of Freiburg, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1962 and completed residency training and a Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt. He then was commissioned in the U.S. Public Health Service as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for two years. While with the CDC, Dr. Schaffner became intimately familiar with public health and investigated outbreaks of communicable diseases both in the United States and abroad. These experiences were a formative stimulus for his subsequent career. He returned to Vanderbilt after that tour of duty, joining the faculty and establishing a long collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Health.

Dr. Schaffner's primary interest has been the prevention of infectious diseases. He is a strong proponent of collaboration between academic medical centers and public health institutions. He has worked extensively on the effective use of vaccines in both pediatric and adult populations and has been a member of numerous expert advisory committees that establish national vaccine policy.

Dr. Schaffner is the current Medical Director and past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and has served on the Executive Board for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 

Dr. Schaffner is committed to communicating about medicine to the general public. He regards this as a teaching opportunity. As such, he often is invited to comment in local and national media on communicable disease issues, translating research advances and public health events into language that the public can understand.