Public Health alum ‘making a difference in the world’

By Alex Branch

Michael Foster

 

Michael Foster, MPH, (School of Public Health ’07) is an experienced public health scientist who spends half of each year overseas battling disease and health disparities.

That has led to some rough moments in the field.

During his first trip to Nigeria, he dodged gunfire, was robbed three times and fell so ill from malaria that he found himself bedridden in a sweltering hospital room.

“All this happened within 12 days of my arrival,” Foster said. “I remember lying there with a 104 degree temperature and thinking it couldn’t get more miserable than this.”

That’s just one of many experiences Foster shared with Health Science Center public health students. The scientist with Global Disease Research, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, has volunteered to mentor students who wish to follow a similar career path.

Since he co-founded Global Disease Research in 2012, Foster’s projects have focused on dengue hemorrhagic fever in Mexico, co-infections of dengue, malaria and HIV in West Africa, and chikungunya in Colombia. He is collecting data on hypertension and Zika virus in Nigeria.

That work is making an impact. He co-authored a published study showing that Global Disease Research’s treatment protocol resulted in a 50 percent decrease in death rates from dengue fever in Mexico.

“We are not bound by borders, governments or disease,” said Foster, who lives in Denton. “We don’t go anywhere and tell people what to do. We ask them what they need, and we work together to solve their most important problems.”

A frequent request he gets from public health students is to explain how he made it from public health student to public health professional with an international organization. He says he found a mentor in Terry Fredeking, president of Global Disease Research, and Dr. Tracy Goen, president of ECHO (Egbe Community Health Outreach).

It set the path for his career and is a big reason why he volunteered to mentor UNTHSC students.

“I benefited greatly from mentors,” Foster said. “I hope to help prepare talented public health students to go make a difference in the world.”

To learn more about mentoring opportunities at the Health Science Center, contact Jennifer Nanni, Alumni Relations Manager, at Jennifer.Nanni@unthsc.edu

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