A cholera outbreak in Haiti caused by a strain that resembles a South Asian strain of the disease and last year’s international swine flu pandemic, thought to have originated in a Mexico swine herd, are reminders that infectious diseases know no borders.
In the college’s department of environmental and global health, faculty members’ work extends beyond Florida and the United States to more than a dozen countries, including Romania, Haiti, Kenya, Mongolia and Bangladesh.
The department of environmental and global health is led by Dr. Gregory Gray, an outstanding scientist-scholar with exceptional leadership skills. Since Dr. Gray began his position in January, the department has received $2 million in research funding and added several faculty members and postdoctoral researchers.
The roots of the college’s environmental health activities began in 2004 when we added an environmental health component to our public health program. Dr. Natalie Freeman did a wonderful job of leading the program and we are forever indebted to her for her seminal work.
For a young department, the faculty of environmental and global health has already accomplished much. In addition to the work on respiratory pathogens described in this issue’s cover story, Edsel Redden is overseeing the construction of an infectious disease field laboratory in Haiti where his colleague, Dr. Bernard Okech, is investigating drug-resistant malaria. Dr. Afsar Ali studies water-borne diseases and was among the first experts to predict Haiti’s cholera outbreak. Dr. Andrew Kane researches water toxicology and the effects on animals and people. Dr. Richard Rheingans is examining water quality in developing countries, including a school-based project in Kenya to improve drinking water and sanitation. These are just a few of the department’s researchers and ongoing projects.
With increasing globalization and threats to our environment, the work of the college’s environmental and global health department is more important than ever.