Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles, 2002


2023 Induction Speech

“Thanks to wonderful educators, Heights High is where I discovered my love of math and statistics, learned how to write and think, and started to understand the power of public policy. So many of my accomplishments are due to the foundations I built at Heights and it’s truly an honor to be recognized.”

“Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.” ~ C. Everett Koop, 13th Surgeon General of the United States

Ruth Link-Gelles, PhD, MPH is a Commander in the US Public Health Service assigned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, where she serves as a senior epidemiologist and the program lead for vaccine effectiveness. In this position, she plays a key role in evaluating the real-world effectiveness of current vaccines and determining the potential impact of future vaccine policy, routinely advising CDC and Department of Health and Human Services leadership. 

Ruth previously led planning and implementation for COVID-19 vaccine rollout in long-term care facilities and has deployed numerous times in response to outbreaks of COVID-19, Zika virus, measles, and hepatitis. Before COVID-19, she served in CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, working on measles outbreaks and poliovirus containment, with CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion investigating outbreaks of infectious diseases in healthcare facilities, and with CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis combating hepatitis A, B, and C in the U.S. and abroad. Ruth holds a PhD in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, an MPH from Emory University, and a BA from George Washington University, and is a proud graduate of Cleveland Heights High!


BA, History, The George Washington University

MPH, Epidemiology, Emory University

PhD, Epidemiology, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Current Occupation

Senior Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commander, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

  • Designed and implemented CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution program for nursing homes, including administration of >8 million vaccine doses 
  • Co-led creation and implementation of the COVID-19 Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which has administered >300 million vaccines doses to date 
  • Recipient of the 2021 Jan Thayer Pioneer Award from the National Center for Assisted living for critical role in helping long-term care residents during COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Recipient of the U.S. Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal for extraordinary leadership in the prevention of COVID-19 in the long-term care facility population
  • Deployed repeatedly for outbreak control and investigation, domestically and globally, including to the Country of Georgia, American Samoa, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands 
  • Global expert on vaccine effectiveness