Our National School of Tropical Medicine is one of the first of its kind in North America devoted to the neglected diseases that disproportionately afflict "the bottom billion," the world's poorest people who live below the World Bank poverty level.
We are also addressing neglected infections of poverty in the United States through establishing a unique tropical disease clinic in collaboration with the Harris Health System and preventing these infections as they emerge along the Gulf Coast and South Texas. Among our recent discoveries is the finding of dengue fever transmission in Houston, Chagas disease transmission in East and South Texas, and a new clinical syndrome caused by West Nile virus (WNV) infection. We have also created at the Baylor Clinic mechanisms and clinics to help travelers to and from tropical disease-endemic countries.
I believe that at several levels America has a duty to harness our entrepreneurial spirit, our international leadership in research and development, and our most precious resource – the intellectual capital of our populace to be a leader in training the next generation of global public health scientists and health care providers. We need individuals who either have the expertise to build needed new technologies or who will understand how to apply these new technologies to public health practice.
At our National School, now linked to the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, we are pioneering the development and clinical testing of new vaccines to combat intestinal nematode infections, schistosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, SARS and WNV infection. Scientists in our diagnostics group are working to develop or improve new technologies for a variety of neglected tropical disease pathogens.
In my opinion, there is unprecedented interest by young people to solve global public health problems of importance to the developing world. We need now to harness that youthful energy and channel it appropriately. Recently I wrote in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases:
“So exactly where and how does a person obtain training in a new type of global public health practice that embraces Affymetrix chips as a diagnostic tool for human African trypanosomiasis or river blindness; tests of a new drug for the treatment or chronic Chagas disease; planning for community-based drug distributors in order to add mebendazole and praziquantel to ivermectin for NTD control together with long-lasting insecticide-treated nets for co-endemic malaria; or the development, technology transfer, and clinical testing new recombinant vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis, or hookworm infection? Similarly, where does an individual become trained to simultaneously learn to conduct high throughput screening for new antimalarial drugs, or prepare batch production records for the fermentation of a new recombinant hookworm antigen?"
Until recently, comprehensive training in global health, particularly with focus on neglected tropical diseases, could not be found in the United States. Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have come together to change that. The National School of Tropical Medicine will be the place for individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of the world's poorest people. In collaboration with the Baylor College of Medicine Healthcare Policy Institute and James A. Baker III Public Policy Institute at Rice University we are also shaping a new public policy for tropical infections and their impact on vulnerable and impoverished populations. Our recent policy documents and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, Global Post, Foreign Policy, and Pacific Standard, among others.
This website provides a brief overview of the mission and vision of the National School of Tropical Medicine and our programs. I encourage all who are interested to visit often, follow our progress and keep informed about programs and opportunities that may be right for you.
Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D.
National School of Tropical Medicine