Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine today announced the creation of the Texas Children's Center for Global Health and the appointment of renowned physician-scientist Dr. Russell E. Ware as director.

Focusing primarily on medically underserved populations, Texas Children's Center for Global Health will address major causes of child morbidity and mortality globally. It will also provide screening, treatment and education to positively impact critical global health issues affecting children such as sickle cell disease, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition and cancer.

Changing the world

The center will build upon the 15 years of experience and expertise of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children's Hospital, which operates a network of clinics and satellite centers across southern and eastern Africa and in Eastern Europe. BIPAI clinics provide HIV/AIDS treatment for about 80,000 children, more than any other program worldwide.

"Through BIPAI, we have learned how to create collaborative programs in developing nations that dramatically change the outlook for children affected by life-threatening but treatable disease," said Dr. Mark W. Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, chair of pediatrics at BCM and founder of BIPAI. "We believe it is our moral obligation to use this knowledge in treating other diseases – to create programs that can literally change the world by positively impacting the health of children and families."

According to Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children's Hospital, this increased global focus is a logical next step in the shared commitment of BCM and Texas Children's as international leaders in pediatric healthcare. "Located in the heart of a city as globally diverse as Houston, our two institutions share a history of caring for children from all over the world," he said. "Even as we continue to expand services in our own community, our mission compels us to reach out to the most disadvantaged children around the world where our efforts can literally save lives."

Sickle cell initial focus

Led by Dr. Ware, the first initiative of Texas Children's Center for Global Health will be a screening and treatment program for sickle cell disease in Luanda, Angola. Annually more than 6,000 babies in that country are born with sickle cell disease and most are undiagnosed, contributing substantially to the high mortality rate for children under age five. More than 20% of Angola's adult population carries the gene that causes sickle cell disease.

"Dr. Ware is most definitely a transformative figure and a physician scientist who is a giant in the field of sickle cell disease," said Dr. Paul Klotman, president and chief executive officer of Baylor College of Medicine. "His leadership will ensure significant strides in our globalization efforts and represents a major step forward in building on the BIPAI legacy to serve children and their families throughout the world."

Creating a better future for children

An internationally recognized expert in the field of pediatric hematology, Ware comes to Texas Children's Hospital and BCM from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis where he was Lemuel Diggs Endowed Chair of Sickle Cell Disease and the chair of the Department of Hematology. In addition to directing Texas Children's Center for Global Health, Ware will serve as director of a new Texas Children's Hematology Center and as professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. The hematology center will serve children locally and globally, expanding current efforts at Texas Children's, especially in the areas of sickle cell disease, hemostasis and thrombosis, bone marrow failure and immunohematology.

Dr. Ware recently led a team from Texas Children's Center for Global Health to the Republic of Angola, where an agreement was signed with the country's Ministry of Health on March 22 for a pilot program to screen newborns for sickle cell disease in two large maternity hospitals located in the city of Luanda. The screening program is slated to begin later this summer and is being supported by funding from Chevron Corporation.

"It is both exciting and humbling to direct a global program that continues the mission and legacy of respected colleagues at BCM and Texas Children's," said Ware, who assumed his new post on March 14. "We know that the pediatric diseases we will tackle, beginning with sickle cell, can be managed effectively using existing treatment methods. This global initiative can create a new and better future for hundreds of thousands of babies and children—and that is a powerful incentive," he added.

A distinguished researcher and author of more than 200 scientific papers and 35 textbook chapters, Ware receives more than $10 million annually in National Institutes of Health funding. He holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Furman University and a medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine. He completed pediatric residency training at Baylor and Texas Children's and sub-specialty training in hematology/oncology at Duke. He also received a Ph.D. in immunology from Duke.