Joan Miller Block ’82 mission is to eradicate hepatitis B

Photo courtesy of the Hepatitis B Foundation

Twenty years ago, Joan Miller Block ’82, her husband, Dr. Tim Block, and their friends, Paul and Janine Witte, all from Pennsylvania, founded the Hepatitis B Foundation in response to a young family affected by hepatitis B. They hoped to find a cure for the deadly disease, the world’s most common serious liver infection, which is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids and kills one million people every year.

Today, the foundation has grown into a professional organization with a global reach. The foundation’s offices and research labs are housed in an 110,000-square-foot, $14 million major research facility in Bucks County, Pa. (the Pennsylvania Biotech Center), which the foundation opened in 2006. Joan Block, R.N., B.S.N., serves as the foundation’s executive director, and eliminating hepatitis B has become her all-consuming passion.

Under Block’s leadership, a comprehensive outreach and education program was created that now includes a website (, multi-platform, multi-lingual educational materials and newsletters, e-mail/phone help lines, a national patient conference for hepatitis B, and research with findings published in peer-reviewed journals. The foundation’s research program also funds the nation’s largest concentration of scientists focused on hepatitis B drug discovery and coordinates meetings throughout the world.

For her outstanding accomplishments, Block was named a 2010 Philadelphia Business Journal Woman of Distinction. In May, she was honored with Penn Asian Senior Services’ 2011 Distinguished Health Leader Award.

“As a nonprofit healthcare advocate, my passion and drive to eradicate hepatitis B have been at the crux of my professional life for the last 20 years. I believe that Margaret Mead said it best, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,’” Block said. “As an Asian American, it is truly gratifying to see the Hepatitis B Foundation making a positive difference in combating a serious liver disease that disproportionately affects individuals of Asian descent both in the U.S. and abroad.”

– By Richard R. Aguirre