Dr. Larry Brilliant helped defeat smallpox

This Doctor Toured with the Grateful Dead. Then He Helped Eradicate Small Pox from the Face of the Earth

Dr. Larry Brilliant starred in a 1960s film that was a total flop. The movie was called Medicine Ball Caravan and it was a (sort of) documentary that followed Larry and a bunch of other hippies as they followed the touring busses of acts like the Grateful Dead.

But despite the commercial failure of this film I would posit that it lead, though somewhat indirectly, to the global eradication of Small Pox — the first disease ever to be eradicated from the face of the earth. That’s because after the filming ended, Larry kept the hippie caravan going until he reached India, and while there, joined the World Health Organization’s small pox eradication program. It’s a great story.

Larry is now an epidemiologist with the Skoll Foundation and we have an absolutely fascinating conversation about his life and career, including how a chance encounter with Martin Luther King in 1962 forever changed his life. Many of these stories are included in his recently published memoir: Sometimes Brilliant:The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the World’s Worst Disease.

We kick off discussing the current threat from global pandemics before pivoting to his extraordinarily unique life story.

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