The 2013 Moselio Schaechter Distinguished Service Award (sponsored by GSK) has been given to Nancy Gore Saravia, Ph.D., Centro Internacional de Entrenamiento e Investigaciones Médicas (CIDEIM), Cali, Colombia, This award, which is named after former ASM President Moselio Schaechter, seeks to honor an ASM member who has shown outstanding leadership and commitment towards the furthering of microbiology in research, education, or technology in the developing world. Saravia has won the award for being instrumental in generating world-class research in Colombia in the field of leishmaniasis, and in the development of CIDEIM, all of which has had an enormous impact on the training of new generations of scientists.
Saravia received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Vanderbilt University and was a postdoctoral trainee at the Immunobiology Research Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Currently, Saravia is an adjunct faculty member of the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, Professor Adjunct, Yale School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, and Adjunct Professor of the Tulane University School of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. She has formally and informally mentored several generations of Colombian international biomedical and clinical investigators from the undergraduate to the post-doctoral level. According to her nominator, Diane McMahon-Pratt, Yale School of Public Health, “the scope of her educational efforts extend throughout Colombia; she has created bridges for training between 14 universities/institutions within Colombia through "live" internet-based post-graduate level biomedical courses and seminars.” Saravia has been the scientific leader of CIDEIM since 1985 and in 1990 shepherded its transition from a Technical Assistance Mission established in 1961, to a nationally and internationally respected autonomous Colombian research institution dedicated to reducing the impact of infectious disease.
Saravia has promoted, advocated for, and conducted research and research capacity development on infectious disease in Colombia throughout her research career. Her life and work and the evolution of CIDEIM have been inextricably intertwined for over 30 years. Daniel Colley, University of Georgia, notes that “through CIDEIM she provides excellent research opportunities and mentoring to Colombian and international students that will be a lasting legacy in Latin America.” The contribution of her interdisciplinary research on infectious diseases including, malaria, American trypanosomiasis, tuberculosis and leishmaniasis to public health has been recognized with the Jose Celestino Mutis Medal by the Colombian Ministry of Health and by the international scientific community with the Bailey K. Ashford award of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and her participation on international advisory boards of the WHO/TDR Special Program for Research on Tropical Diseases, Pan American Health Organization and Wellcome Trust as well as the Councils for Health Research and Research Capacity Building of the Colombian National Department of Science, Technology and Innovation-COLCIENCIAS.
Leishmaniasis, a neglected disease of poverty that affects tens of thousands each year in Colombia and an estimated 2 million worldwide, has been the major emphasis of Dr. Saravia’s research. Under her leadership CIDEIM has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the natural history of dermal leishmaniasis in endemically exposed populations. Her team prospectively documented primary and secondary antimony resistance as contributing factors in treatment failure and conducted the first pharmacokinetic studies of antimony in children with cutaneous leishmaniasis after finding a high rate of treatment failure in children. This work substantiated more rapid elimination of antimony in children compared to adults and led to their recent demonstration of non-inferiority of oral miltefosine compared to parenteral antimony in the treatment of pediatric cutaneous leishmaniasis. These findings have already begun to impact treatment policy in this increasingly vulnerable segment of the population.
Gloria I. Palma, Universidad del Valle, concludes by saying “her research concerning the immunology, natural history, and epidemiology of leishmaniasis, malaria and tuberculosis has been published in many international journals and she is recognized internationally as an authority in these fields.”
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