Lawrence O. Gostin is the faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and is the founding O’Neill chair in global health law. He is the distinguished university professor, Georgetown University’s highest academic rank conferred by the university president. He served as associate dean for research at Georgetown Law from 2004 to 2008. In 2021, Gostin received the Steve Goldberg Memorial Award for Community Service at Georgetown. He is professor of medicine at Georgetown University and professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins University. Gostin’s Georgetown profile is available here.
A systematic empirical analysis of legal scholarship, independent researchers ranked Gostin first in the nation in productivity among all law professors. In 2023, he was ranked fourth in the world among law professors. He is consistently ranked first in the nation in citations for health law. Gostin is also ranked first among health law professors on Google Scholar and on West Law. He is in the top 10% worldwide for downloads on SSRN.
Gostin is the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. He is working with the WHO and the Intergovernmental Negotiation Body (INB) to draft a pandemic treaty. He also currently serves on WHO’s Review Committee for amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR).
The WHO director-general has appointed Gostin to high-level positions, including the IHR Roster of Experts and the Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health. He served on the Director-General’s Advisory Committee on Reforming the World Health Organization, as well as numerous WHO expert advisory committees, including on the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, smallpox, genomic sequencing data, migrant health, mental health, NCDs, and gender, equity and human rights. He served on the WHO/Global Fund Blue Ribbon Expert Panel: The Equitable Access Initiative to develop a global health equity framework. He chaired the WHO Health and Migration Consultation on Knowledge and Research in Migrant Health, including the WHO Triple Billion Goals.
Gostin is an elected lifetime member of the National Academy of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences. He has served on the National Academy’s Board on Health Sciences Policy, the Board on Population Health, the Human Subjects Review Board, and the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law. He served two terms on the National Academies of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine, Board on Global Health. He also served on the National Academies Expert Committee on the Analysis to Enhance the Effectiveness of the Federal Quarantine Station Network based on Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Gostin chaired has chaired numerous National Academies committee including the Committee on Global Solutions to Falsified, Substandard, and Counterfeit Medicines. He has chaired National Academy committees on national preparedness for mass disasters, health informational privacy, public health genomics, and human subject research on prisoners.
Commissioned by the White House, Gostin currently chairs the National Academies Committee on Current State of Research, Development, and Stockpiling of Smallpox Medical Countermeasures.
Gostin co-chaired The Lancet Commission on Global Health Law, which proposed the foundational concept of the legal determinants of health.
Gostin has been at the center of public policy and law through multiple epidemics from AIDS, SARS, and Influenza H1N1 to Ebola, MERS, Zika, and mpox. TheWashingtonian Magazine lists Gostin as the most influential 500 people shaping policy in America. He served on two global commissions to report on the lessons learned from the 2015 West Africa Ebola epidemic. He was also senior advisor to the United Nations Secretary General’s post-Ebola Commission. Gostin also served on the drafting team for the G-7 Summit in Tokyo 2016, focusing on global health security and Universal Health Coverage.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gostin has worked with the White House, federal public health agencies, and governors in the United States, as well as the World Health Organization, GAVI, and the World Bank. Gostin currently serves as a member of the Independent Panel for a Global Public Health Convention (PGPHC): “global leaders working to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, prepare, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks before they become widespread pandemics.” Gostin also serves on the Panel for the Global Health Security Index — the world’s most comprehensive assessment of global health security capabilities in 195 countries. He chairs the O’Neill Institute/Foundation of the National Institutes of Health Global Consultations on a Pandemic Treaty in support of the WHO.
Gostin’s policy work extends to major areas of U.S. policy, including working for Senators Kennedy and Dole in the drafting and enactment of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
Gostin holds multiple international academic professorial appointments, including at Oxford University, the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), Melbourne University, and Sydney University. Gostin served on the Governing Board of Directors of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.
Gostin holds editorial appointments in leading academic journals throughout the world. He is the legal and global health editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association. He was also founding editor-in-chief of Laws (an international open access law journal). He was formally the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.
Gostin holds several honorary degrees. In 1994, the chancellor of the State University of New York conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree. In 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Vice Chancellor awarded Cardiff University’s (Wales) highest honor, an Honorary Fellow. In 2007, the Royal Institute of Public Health (United Kingdom) appointed Gostin as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health (FRSPH). In 2012, the chancellor of the University of Sydney — on the nomination of the Deans of the Law and Medical Schools — conferred a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), presided by two Justices of Australia’s highest court — Justices Kirby and Haydon. In 2021, the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom elected Gostin as an honorary member of the faculty of public health.
Gostin is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the Hastings Center. In 2016, President Obama appointed Gostin to a six-year term on the President’s National Cancer Advisory Board to advise the nation on cancer prevention, research, and policy. He also served on the National Institutes of Health Director’s Advisory Committee on the ethics of public/private partnerships to end the opioid crisis.
Gostin has led major law reform initiatives in the United States, including drafting the Model Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA) to combat bioterrorism (following the post-9/11 anthrax attacks) and the “Turning Point” Model State Public Health Act. He also spearheaded the WHO and International Development Law Organization’s major report, Advancing the Right to Health: The Vital Role of Law. He is currently advising the Uniform Law Commission on a model emergency health powers law in response to COVID-19.
Gostin’s proposal for a Framework Convention on Global Health — an international treaty ensuring the right to health — is now part of a global campaign, endorsed by the UN secretary-general and director of UNAIDS.
In the United Kingdom, Gostin was the legal director of the National Association for Mental Health, director of the National Council of Civil Liberties (the United Kingdom equivalent of the ACLU, now called “Liberty”), and a fellow at Oxford University. He led Liberty during its 50th anniversary, started by George Orwell and EM Forster. He helped draft the Mental Health Act (England and Wales) and brought landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
Gostin’s books include: Global Health Security: A Blueprint for the Future (Harvard University Press, 2021); Global Health Law (Harvard University Press, 2014); Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint (University of California Press, 3rd ed., 2016); Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader (University of California Press, 3rd ed., 2018); Law and the Health System (Foundation Press, 2014); Principles of Mental Health Law & Practice (Oxford University Press, 2010). He has published a trilogy of global health books for Oxford University Press: Global Health Law & Policy: Ensuring Justice for a Healthier World (2023); Foundations of Global Health Law and Human Rights (2020); Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World (2018).
Gostin’s two books published by Harvard University Press have been widely acclaimed. His book on the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Health Security: A Blueprint for the Future (HUP 2021) won the prestigious Association of American Publishers PROSE Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences, and the best book for 2021 in Clinical Medicine.
Gostin’s classic textbook, Global Health Law (HUP, 2014) is read throughout the world — translated and published in both simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. Paul Farmer, Partners in Health, says of his book: Global Health Law is “more than the definitive book on a dynamic field. Gostin harnesses the power of international law and human rights as tools to close unconscionable health inequities — the injustices that burden marginalized populations throughout the world. Gostin presents a forceful vision, one that deserves a wide embrace.”
Honors and Awards
The National Academy of Medicine awarded Gostin the Adam Yarmolinsky Medal for distinguished service to further its mission of science and health. He received the Public Health Law Association’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of a career devoted to using law to improve the public’s health” presented at the CDC. The New York Public Health Law Association conferred the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for extraordinary service to improve the public’s health. In 2015, the American Public Health Association awarded Gostin the Lifetime Achievement Award for his career in public health law. In 2018, Gostin was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, Who’s Who highest honor.
Internationally, Gostin received the Key to Tohoko University (Japan) for distinguished service for human rights in mental health. In the United Kingdom, the National Consumer Council bestowed Prof Gostin with the Rosemary Delbridge Memorial Award for the person “who has most influenced Parliament and government to act for the welfare of society.”