With Gratitude to Phyllis E. Kozarsky

Phyllis Kozarsky

Phyllis E. Kozarsky, MD, is the longest serving member of the Travelers’ Health Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 25 years ago, she came to the branch, bringing with her extensive experience in travel medicine and infectious diseases. Over the years, Phyllis has helped elevate the quality of the work performed by branch epidemio­logists, public health advisors, medical officers, and communicators thanks to her generously shared clinical insight. Phyllis has also served as an editor of CDC’s Yellow Book since 1999. Yellow Book 2020 will be her final one as Chief Medical Editor, and it is to her great legacy and contribution to travel medicine that we gratefully and fondly dedicate this edition.


It is difficult to imagine the field of travel medicine without Phyllis Kozarsky. A wealth of knowledge and critical judgment in all areas of travel medicine—she really is one of the best in the world—Phyllis is remarkably humble and naturally reticent by nature, qualities that have prevented many of the members of our community from fully appreciating the key role she has played in developing this specialty. In 1991, after helping to create the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), she then managed the organization for several years until it gained its footing. She was also instrumental in creating ISTM’s Certificate of Travel Health exam. An infectious disease specialist, Phyllis started and ran the travel medicine clinic at Emory University in Atlanta, while simultaneously serving as a stable and knowledgeable presence in the travel medicine section of the CDC.

David R. Shlim, MD


When I think of Phyllis Kozarsky, it is her big beautiful smile and her willingness to pitch in and work as part of a team to solve problems that first come to mind.

Phyllis shaped travel medicine as it exists today. Masterful in bringing evidence to practice and policy, she led efforts to define a core body of knowledge for the specialty. She then developed the examination that awards clinicians who pass it, a certificate recognizing their expertise, according to internationally established standards. She has provided crucial support to the GeoSentinel surveillance network and the Global TravEpiNet (GTEN) consortium, and translated the data each provides into sensible guidance for travel medicine practitioners. Her many experiences—as a professor in an academic institution, as an expert consultant in CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, and her work with industry—have provided Phyllis with the multiple perspectives she uses to develop her sound, workable recommendations.

Practical, pragmatic, resourceful, deeply knowledgeable, and highly connected to colleagues throughout the world, Phyllis has a deft touch when dealing with controversial and complicated issues. Her many publications include guidelines and useful advice for common as well as emerging problems, including Zika and Ebola. She has written about vulnerable populations and business and corporate travelers. She has communicated information to the public through interviews and other media outlets, and as Chief Medical Editor for multiple editions of the Yellow Book, Phyllis has reached the global community of travel medicine practitioners.

Mary E. Wilson, MD


A clade of scholars currently focuses on virtual or counterfactual history. So let us ask, hypothetically, “What if in the late 1980’s there would have been no Phyllis Kozarsky at Emory University to collaborate mainly with the CDC in the project for the 1991 Atlanta Travel Medicine Conference?” The simple answer is that there would have been no meeting, and the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) would not have been founded!

Over the decades, Phyllis has continued to contribute as a top leader in crucial projects whenever needed, forging compromises and building bridges. On the surface, soft as velvet, but—when necessary—convincing colleagues with hard facts and her little smile, up to the final success. Phyllis has been one of the main travel medicine achievers in many functions both inside and outside the CDC and the ISTM.

Robert Steffen, MD


Few others in my experience have Phyllis Kozarsky’s common sense and wisdom, two of her strongest personal qualities. Wise beyond her years, she is also a caretaker: a compassionate, thoughtful and nurturing individual, always sensitive to the needs of others, an excellent team player and peacemaker. She has never sought the limelight in terms of her work with ISTM, preferring instead to be in the background, letting others take credit even when she was very much involved in the work and its accomplishments. She preferred to be, as I saw it, ‘the power behind the throne.’ She has carved out her many successes with a quiet determination.

Phyllis is a remarkably bright, innovative leader in the field of travel medicine. A visionary, not a follower, her accomplishments are a testament to her desire to make the world a better place. Her tremendous interpersonal skills have made her an effective, innovative leader in the field of travel medicine and a beloved friend.

Jay S. Keystone, MD


Phyllis Kozarsky has played a critical role in defining, nurturing, and holding to high standards the field of travel medicine. Her depth of expertise is unsurpassed, but more importantly, she has been amazingly adept at linking the fields of clinical medicine and public health. She has facilitated countless connections, bringing together disparate groups, topics, and nations. With regard to CDC’s Yellow Book, Phyllis’ input has ensured it has remained the authoritative travel medicine reference, enabling countless providers to render outstanding care and advice. We will miss her knowledge, counsel, wit and graciousness as she steps down as Chief Medical Editor.

Edward T. Ryan, MD


I have known my friend and colleague Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky for over 25 years and I cannot think of a single person who has had as much influence on the field of travel medicine as she has. An advocate for public and professional education in travel medicine, Phyllis was a founding member of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), served as its first Secretary Treasurer, and organized its first conference in 1991; she chaired its first Professional Education Committee and created the ISTM Certification Examination. She has also served as editor of the premier textbook in travel medicine. Her accomplishments—clinical, educational and organizational—set her apart from virtually everyone else in the field. And matched by her accomplishments and intelligence (perhaps even exceeding them) are her warmth, compassion and generosity of spirt, her kindness, empathy and true respect of others.

Bradley A. Connor, MD


The CDC Yellow Book first appeared in 1967. Originally a thin pamphlet, it presented to readers some specific provisions of the International Health Regulations.

For the last 11 editions (over the past 20 years), Phyllis Kozarsky has guided the transformation of the Yellow Book into the comprehensive travel medicine reference by which all other sources of travel medicine information are now judged. Its guidelines and recommendations articulate the evidence-base in the US-context as determined by the CDC and its various advisory bodies. And while a number of other national and international resources are available, experienced clinicians outside the United States continue to refer to the Yellow Book as a mandatory pillar of consultation for all matters of clinical decision support to safeguard the health of their travelers.

Phyllis, who directed her own travel clinic at Emory University where she had an enviable publication record as a Professor of Medicine, has been steadfast in ensuring that the Yellow Book be written primarily for practicing clinicians. Over the years, she assembled a cadre of expert co-editors and contributors from outside the agency (mainly experts from GeoSentinel and ISTM) who themselves had day-to-day experience in the practice of travel medicine, helping make each edition come to life.

Phyllis’ vision and soft-spoken subject-matter mastery—combined with her dogged diligence up until the last possible publication deadline—has allowed her to bring together experts from inside and outside the CDC. Experts who craft language that provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of a topic, and a best-possible, very practical solution to any clinical scenario that might walk into the travel clinic. The qualifications for Phyllis’ successor should simply include the attributes mentioned in this dedication piece; one should ask for no more and no less.

David O. Freedman, MD