“Houston, We Have a Solution.” Why The Texas City Could Be the Next Great Global Health Hub

Ed Note. I am pleased to welcome Jaclyn Schiff to the site.  Jaclyn is a writer and content strategist based in the Washington, D.C., area. Her work — which focuses on media, global health and women — has appeared in several publications, such as Kaiser Health News, The Huffington Post, CBSNews.com, NPR, PBS MediaShift and Women’s eNews. She is @J_Schiff on Twitter. — Mark

Where should editors station reporters that would best position them to uncover the next great global health story?

Should the focus be on Geneva, where the World Health Organization is headquartered? Or maybe Seattle, home of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — which seems to have something new related to international health going on almost every day?  Perhaps the next huge story is in Pakistan, where the CIA’s effort to hunt Osama Bin Laden might have significantly damaged global polio eradication efforts?

Nope. Those places are major global health hubs for sure. But the emerging story is further south. In Houston, Texas to be precise.

Houston is well-known for the Texas Medical Center (TMC), which is comprised of 49 institutions and describes itself as the largest medical center in the world. The Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative is highly regarded for its leading role in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Beyond HIV/AIDS however, Houston hasn’t really featured prominently on the global health community’s radar.

That is about to change.

This summer Dr. Peter Hotez — probably best summed up as an international health force of nature — relocated to Houston after more than a decade in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Hotez served as the chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, & Tropical Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center. He his also a noted vaccine and NTD expert and is the editor-in-chief of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Hotez is now working with Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine.

Part of his nonprofit organization, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is also moving down to Houston, which Hotez calls a “gateway to Latin America.” Hotez will also be the founding dean of the first U.S.-based school of tropical medicine. Its exclusive mandate and Hotez’s track record of achievement are likely to attract some of the brightest physicians with an interest in global health, which is huge for creating a bustling global health community.

Also recently, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine announced the creation of the Texas Childrens Center for Global Health, which is set to address issues like tuberculosis, malnutrition and cancer in children.

Then there’s also the Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center. With the increasing prominence of noncommunicable diseases in global health (the highlevel U.N. summit is next month), there could be some fascinating collaborations with the city’s growing global health infrastructure.

Now, the Houston Chronicle hasn’t traditionally been a major source of global health news, but I’d start paying closer attention. There’s too much going on for there not to be a story.