Peter Hotez, whose bold vision led to the first National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University is someone I wrote about in The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men @ http://www.amazon.com/Imaginations-Unreasonable-Men-Inspiration-Purpose/dp/1586487647/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303909402&sr=1-1 His persistence and commitment in developing a vaccine for hookworm is a great example of someone seeking to solve a problem for those so voiceless that there is no market for serving them.
Last week Hotez published an important op-ed in the Austin Statesman (http://www.statesman.com/opinion/hotez-neglected-tropical-diseases-deserve-attention-1935857.html ) about the “hidden underbelly” of neglected tropical diseases, which we typically associate with the developing world, that is now afflicted poor people of color in the American South. Describing these diseases as “the most important diseases you have never heard of” Hotez explains: “Not only do these conditions emerge through poverty, causing horrific disability and disfigurement, but the neglected tropical diseases have been shown to actually create poverty because of their ability to impair child growth, intellect and cognition, and adversely affect pregnancy outcome and worker productivity. These conditions are not rare; they afflict millions of Americans, almost all of them the disenfranchised poor.”
Let’s hope that Hotez’s research leads to the national dialogue he’s called for about how we finally break this cycle of poverty.