By Carole Bartoo

Two leading researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have been named to a new national group intent on increasing U.S. support for global health research.

Peter Wright, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., who directs the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, are among the first 27 "ambassadors" named to the Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research.

The society was launched this summer with a $1.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by Research!America, a not-for-profit group that lobbies to make health research a higher national priority.

As ambassadors, Wright and Vermund will meet with opinion leaders and decision makers, make presentations to non-scientific groups and write newspaper columns about the need for global health research.

The Society’s impressive list of scientists includes James Hildreth, M.D., Ph.D., who directs Meharry Medical College’s Comprehensive Center for Health Disparities Research in HIV, and other nationally known experts in infectious diseases, dentistry, nursing, geriatrics, psychiatry and economics.

The society, named for the former Florida congressman and Research!America chair emeritus, will hold its first meeting Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C.

"Each Ambassador is a true credit to Paul Rogers and each will carry on his effective model of education and advocacy," said John Edward Porter, who chairs the Research!America board of directors and the Rogers Society’s Advisory Council.

"Individually and as a unified voice, they will provide crucial leadership in our mission to increase U.S. support for global health research."

"Research!America is forward-looking in its partnership with retired congressman Rogers to advocate for international research," said Vermund, a pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist who helps lead AIDS research and treatment programs throughout the developing world.

"Many questions of critical importance to the U.S. can only be most effectively addressed through partnerships," he said. "The growing global nature of business, the needs of the military and growing humanitarian needs all demand global health be part of our nation’s priorities."

"I hope this group will be able to make change not just in national policy, but also increase local involvement here in Nashville and at Vanderbilt," added Wright, who has helped develop AIDS treatment and research programs in Haiti.

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