Peter G. Bourne, M.D., M.A.

Dr Peter Bourne is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Vice Chancellor Emeritus of St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies,.and Chairman of the Board of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC). Dr Bourne has had a career as a clinician and researcher, senior government official, international civil servant, diplomat and author. Dr Bourne was born in Oxford, England, where he received his early education. He obtained his medical degree from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1962, and his Master’s degree in anthropology from Stanford University in 1969, while also completing a residency in psychiatry at the same institution. He served as a Captain in the US army, assigned to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). He served for one year in Viet Nam, as head of the Army’s psychiatric research team, where he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and the Combat Medics Badge. His studies on the psychological and physiological aspects of combat stress, described in his books Men, Stress and Viet Nam, (Little Brown) and Psychology and Physiology of Stress (Academic Press), are considered classics in the field of psycho-endocrinology.

Early in his career, Dr Bourne was a member of the faculty of Emory University medical school as an assistant professor of psychiatry and of preventive medicine and community health. In that capacity, as well as teaching, he directed a program to rehabilitate arrested alcoholics in the city jail and subsequently directed the first community mental health center in the State of Georgia. In 1970 he was appointed director of the Georgia Narcotic Treatment Program, a state agency providing statewide drug abuse treatment services.

As Special Assistant to the President for Health Issues in the Carter White House he led the fight to get the administration’s national health insurance plan through the US Congress. Simultaneously, he held the job of Director of the Office of Drug Abuse Policy (ODAP), the position generally referred to as the “drug czar,” where he was responsible for coordinating the law enforcement, treatment, and foreign policy aspects of America’s drug policy. He also established for the President national commissions on world hunger and malnutrition and mental illness. He served as the official emissary of the president in negotiations with the heads of state or government of several nations and represented the US government on the governing bodies of a number of UN organizations including UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, and the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

As an Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations, Dr Bourne established and ran the “International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade,” which provided clean drinking water to 500 million people worldwide during the ten years of the program.. In that capacity he launched the global campaign to eradicate the disease caused by guinea worma program now nearing total success. As director of the UN program he worked with cabinet level committees in most developing countries set up to achieve the programs goals locally. The program’s greatest success was in India where with the backing of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi Dr Bourne was able to get the Indian Planning Commission to make the provision of clean drinking water a top priority in its next five year plan. The result was that over ten years the percentage of the Indian population with access to clean water rose from 40% to 70%. After leaving the UN, he established Global Water, a non-profit charity aimed at providing clean water through local projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. One of its major successes was a project in North East Thailand providing storage tanks for rain water harvesting. Dr Bourne also worked as a consultant for private industry.



Among his clients were Inalsa, the Indian manufacturer of the Mark II hand pump used by UNICEF in its projects worldwide and the British engineering consulting firm, Sir William Halcrows Ltd.

With the latter he was primarily involved over a five year period in directing the social and behavioral aspects of a large scale project to provide water along the entire southern coast of Sri Lanka. Dr Bourne has written extensively on the subject of water and sanitation including editing the book Water and Sanitation: Social and Economic Aspects, published in 1984 by Academic Press. Dr Bourne also served as president of Tropica Development Ltd, a company devoted to the creation of business enterprises in Third World countries, especially Africa. He served as consultant to and on the boards of directors of several nonprofit organizations including Save the Children, Health and Development International, Student Partnerships Worldwide, the Hunger Project, and the American Association for World Health. He was an advisor on foreign policy to US Congressman Bill Richardson, and in that capacity he negotiated a variety of agreements with foreign governments, including Iraq, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iran and, North Korea. Dr Bourne has had professional experience in more than fifty countries.

From 1998 to 2002 Dr Bourne served as the Vice Chancellor (President) of St. George’s University in Grenada, an international institution with students from more than 80 countries. It comprised a school of arts and sciences, a medical school, and two research institutes. During his tenure he established a new school of veterinary medicine, created a program in public health (which offers the MPH), started a multi-disciplinary Institute for Caribbean and International Studies, created in collaboration with the University of Plymouth in the UK a new marine biology program, and began a major outreach effort through the School of Arts and Sciences to try to meet Caribbean educational needs. He has been actively involved in economic and political issues relating to the Caribbean and has worked closely with the Commonwealth Institute and the Caribbean Council for Europe.

In the mid-1990s while serving as the chairman of the board of the American Association for World Health Dr Bourne was asked to coordinate the implementation and publication of a foundation-funded study of the impact of the US embargo on health and nutrition in Cuba. The report received widespread note in the US and Europe. It also drew attention to the excellence of the Cuban health system, especially in providing primary care. With additional foundation funding Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) was formed to enable US medical students, residents and other health professionals to do electives in Cuba. Dr Bourne became the chairman of the organization’s board. Over the next six years more than 1,500 US students spend six week stints working with Cuban family physicians. MEDICC also became increasingly a “health bridge” between the medical communities in the US and Cuba. Because of changes in US government regulations in 1974 it was no longer possible to send medical students to Cuba. MEDICC then expanded its activities in other areas especially taking research groups to Cuba and expanding its publication of MEDICC Review, the only English language publication dealing with Cuban health care and medicine. With two other MEDICC board members Dr Bourne co-produced the feature length documentary !Salud! showing the Cuban health system and the role of Cuban doctors around the world..

In 2011 Dr Bourne was designated a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Green College, Oxford University, where he has continued his work on international health systems. He is the author of more than 100 articles and nine books including biographies Fidel, and Jimmy Carter: A Biography from Plains to the Post-presidency.


© Peter G. Bourne - 2009