World-renowned neglected diseases expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez, received the Distinguished Achievement Award from B’nai B’rith International this March.
The award recognizes Hotez’s accomplishments in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, the most common infections of the world’s poor that not only occur in the setting of poverty, but also can cause poverty because of their adverse impact on child growth and intelligence, pregnancy and work and productivity. He received the award at a dinner reception in his honor at the Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria.
“Through science, he does what news reporters do with the pen. He looks out for the little guy,” said Jeff Cohen, executive editor of the Houston Chronicle and one of the tribute co-chairs of the event.
Hotez, who also serves as the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair in Tropical Pediatrics, has dedicated his work to developing vaccines for neglected tropical diseases such as Chagas disease, hookworm infection and schistosomiasis. He has authored more than 400 original papers and is the author of “Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases” (ASM Press) and “Blue Marble Health: An Innovative Plan to Fight Diseases of the Poor amid Wealth” (Johns Hopkins University Press).
“Dr. Hotez can see the suffering of a billion people that most of the world either chooses not to look at or doesn’t know about,” said Dr. Gary Michelson, last year’s recipient of the award, at the reception. “He has a gigantic heart that’s filled with compassion and love for these people. His is the voice you hear for those people who are voiceless.”
In 2014, Hotez was selected by the White House and the U.S. State Department as a U.S. Science Envoy, a program that selected renowned and distinguished American scientists to promote the United States’ commitment to science, technology and innovation as tools of diplomacy and economic growth. During his time as a U.S. Science Envoy, Hotez focused on establishing science diplomacy initiatives between the U.S., the Middle East and North Africa.
“Since coming to Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, he has made his mark in Texas just as he has around the world,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, president, CEO and executive dean of Baylor College of Medicine. “He is an advocate for the poorest people who are suffering from devastating diseases and do not have the ability to advocate for themselves. He is a public health champion who focuses on the incredible importance of vaccines to keep people healthy.”
“He’s a brilliant physician-scientist; I would say a unique physician-scientist,” said Dr. Mark Kline, chair of pediatrics at Baylor and physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s. “The things that he does are not duplicated by anyone else in the world.”
“It is a momentous occasion in our organization’s history to recognize such an outstanding physician scientist who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of those around the globe,” said B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin as he presented Hotez the award.
Hotez graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biophysics and earned his biochemistry Ph.D. in 1986 from Rockefeller University. He received his M.D. from Weil Cornell Medical College in 1987.
“I will remember this as one of the great nights of my life,” said Hotez as he received the award.
Hotez reflected on the topic of science and public engagement in today’s world and introduced a concept he called ‘science tikkun.’ Tikkun olam is the Jewish concept that refers to repairing the world.
“The idea behind ‘science tikkun’ is to try to unify these two ideas of repairing the world through public engagement and at the same time conducting scientific activities,” Hotez said.
“I came tonight because Dr. Hotez is a national treasure,” said United States Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. “He is clearly someone who exudes the basis of our existence and that is to help humanity.”
She then presented Hotez with a Congressional Resolution and a flag that was hoisted in front of the United States Capitol in his honor on Feb. 27, 2017.