In 1985, at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Georgia Public Health Association, a resolution was presented and approved to establish an annual lecture honoring the memory of Thomas Fort Sellers, Sr., M.D., and John Edgar McCroan, Jr., Ph.D. In addition to the lecture, an annual Sellers-McCroan Award is given to a public health professional. The call for award nominations is issued each year in order to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement and service to Georgians in epidemiology and/or laboratory services. The recipient is a public health professional in Georgia, whose work has had significant impact on epidemiology and/or laboratory services at the state, district or county levels, or in academia or in hospitals.
Thomas Fort Sellers, Sr., M.D.
Dr. Sellers worked in public health in the State of Georgia for 42 years, first as Director of the Laboratory and later as Director of the Georgia Department of Public Health. A graduate of Mercer University, he received his Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan, and his medical degree from Emory University.
Dr. Sellers actively supported the increased scope of the Centers for Disease Control to include research in communicable diseases. He provided leadership in the early days of Hill- Burton funding to establish hospitals in rural Georgia.
His most significant contribution to public health was the development of the “Sellers Stain” which provided a breakthrough in rapid diagnosis of rabies and continues to be used internationally. Dr. Sellers founded the Southern Public Health Laboratory Association and was instrumental in organizing the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors. He was named an honorary member of the Georgia Public Health Association in 1964.
John Edgar McCroan, Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. McCroan received his BS and MS degrees from Emory University in 1931 and 1932, and earned his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University in 1938. He began his career during World War II after receiving his training in epidemiology from the United States Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He worked as a public health epidemiologist in Georgia for 35 years.
Dr. McCroan was intimately involved with the control of 60 reportable diseases in Georgia. He conducted research leading to the control of foodborne diseases, staphylococcal infections, encephalitis and several zoonotic infections. He directed the immunization program in Georgia for a number of years, and through his leadership such childhood diseases as polio, diptheria and whooping cough were drastically reduced.
Dr. McCroan served as president of the Georgia Public Health Association in 1970, and was named an honorary member in 1978. He was an active member of the American Public Health Association and the Conference of State and Territorial Epidemiologists until his retirement in 1979.