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Baylor Professor Clinton White Named To Head UTMB Infectious Diseases Division

By Judie Kinonen

GALVESTON, Texas—Dr. A. Clinton White Jr., a nationally recognized expert in tropical medicine and a former professor at Baylor College of Medicine, has joined the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) as chief of its Infectious Diseases Division, department chair Randall J. Urban has announced.

“Dr. White is a very committed, knowledgeable and respected clinician, researcher and educator,” Dr. Urban said. “We are delighted that he has chosen to come to UTMB, and I expect him to develop an Infectious Diseases Division here focused on global infections that is second to none in the United States.”

White said that he first became interested in international health after meeting people from around the world and becoming interested in the medical problems of their regions as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, where he majored in music and was graduated magna cum laude in 1977. The son of a distinguished infectious diseases diagnostician, White ultimately concluded that his practicing medicine would allow him to make a greater contribution to society than composing music and so applied to medical school. He received his medical degree “with highest distinction” from Indiana University in 1982. While there, he took a two-month international elective observing health problems in India south of Mumbai (then called Bombay) and also studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Thereafter, he completed his medical residency at the University of Washington, Seattle, During a subsequent infectious diseases fellowship, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the MacArthur Center for Molecular Parasitology at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he first met the late Dr. Robert E. Shope—subsequently a much-beloved professor at UTMB—whom he regards as a role model. Later, during a six-month stint in Venezuela, White continued studying parasitic diseases.

Recruited by Baylor College of Medicine in 1989, White cared for immigrants at the Harris County Hospital District’s Ben Taub General Hospital. Among those patients, he diagnosed and helped research myriad diseases such as neurocysticercocosis (a major cause of neurologic disease worldwide), malaria and cryptosporidiosis—an important cause of diarrhea in the United States and a life-threatening disorder among malnourished children overseas and AIDS patients in the U.S. White has treated a number of AIDS patients and also has studied numerous opportunistic infections afflicting them, and he helped to develop one of the most commonly used HIV protease inhibitors.

White has published more than 100 articles on a wide range of subjects. His research has been supported by grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH.). The topics range from basic studies in the laboratory to clinical and epidemiologic studies. He has authored chapters in key textbooks including Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, the Pediatric Red Book and Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’ Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. He is also on the editorial board several journals.

A past president of the clinicians’ group of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), White is a member of the national council overseeing ASTMH. He was awarded a training grant by the Fogarty International Center of the NIH to train Peruvian physicians and he brought that grant with him to UTMB. He helped develop an international health track that helps medical students obtain certification in tropical medicine and travel health.

Studying global health and combating tropical diseases is crucial for American medical students because “the world’s getting smaller and smaller, and national borders have less and less meaning,” White observed. “Millions of people are traveling from the U.S. to other countries, and so the health of people in those regions affects people here.” For example, he said, about 1,000 cases of leishmaniasis, an infection spread by sand flies that can be fatal if untreated, have occurred among American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, White continued, “The U.S. is a nation of immigrants—12 percent of our population was born in other countries. So if you’re going to practice medicine in the U.S. and Texas especially, you need to be familiar with global diseases.”

White said he was influenced to come to UTMB largely by the “visionary leaders in the School of Medicine who have made global infectious disease a priority.” He said he was also attracted to the rich UTMB research environment that includes Dr. Stanley M. Lemon, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity (IHII), and Dr. Lynn Soong, IHII associate director; Dr. David H. Walker, chair of the Department of Pathology and director of the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and Center for Tropical Medicine; Dr. David Niesel, chair of Microbiology and Immunology; Dr. Janice Smith, who runs UTMB’s international program for medical students; and Dr. James LeDuc, a recent recruit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The opportunity to work with all these people and with the very solid group in the Infectious Disease Division doing cutting-edge research in HIV, hepatitis C, influenza and many animal models of infection is something I couldn’t pass up,” White said. “And the Galveston National Laboratory will be a huge recruiting tool, drawing some of the best and brightest faculty and trainees here to work with us.”

White continued: “I really believe that UTMB’s best days are ahead. Despite the difficulties it’s had to go through recently, I think it’s poised for a great future and I’m glad to be part of it.”

Academic and research leaders at UTMB expressed happiness at White’s arrival. “I am very pleased that we have recruited such a talented leader to the Division of Infectious Disease,” said IHII director Lemon. “It is critically important that we have strong clinical leadership in infectious diseases to complement our basic research programs, and we have that in Dr. White. His interests in geographic medicine and tropical diseases will add unique strengths to our growing focus on global health.”

Added pathology chair Walker: “Clinton White not only brings great clinical skills and leadership in general infectious diseases but also strengthens our reputation in tropical and emerging infectious diseases. His standards of academic success will have an important impact on research, education and clinical activities at UTMB.”

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