December 15, 2008 — Dr. Richard L. Guerrant, an international infectious disease expert at the University of Virginia Health System, has been awarded the highest honor from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Guerrant, director of U.Va.'s Center for Global Health, received the Walter Reed Medal in recognition of his distinguished accomplishments in the field of tropical medicine at the society's annual meeting in New Orleans.
"I am honored and humbled to join the hallowed company of the winners of this award. As a group they have accomplished so much in tropical medicine and saved millions of lives; I hope I can live up to the standards set by my predecessors," Guerrant said.
Past recipients of the award include Albert Sabin, creator of the polio vaccine; Nobel Prize winner Thomas Weller; and Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered the pathogen that causes Lyme disease.
Guerrant, Thomas H. Hunter Professor of International Medicine at the U.Va. School of Medicine, is an internationally recognized expert on enteric infections. The Walter Reed award coincides with the 30th anniversary of the first time Guerrant sent U.Va. medical students abroad to conduct research projects — an endeavor that has expanded to become one of the nation's longest-running global health programs in higher education.
Guerrant's research focuses on the recognition, diagnosis, pathogenesis, impact and control of bacterial infections of the intestines and their consequences. He is the author of more than 480 scientific and clinical articles, reviews and major textbook chapters, and editor of six books, including a two-volume textbook, "Tropical Infectious Diseases: Principles, Pathogens and Practice." He also penned a book about lessons learned from his collaborations in Northeast Brazil, "At the Edge of Development: Health Crises in a Transitional Society."
The first Walter Reed Medal was given in 1936 to Mrs. Walter Reed and the Rockefeller Foundation for what the society termed their meritorious achievement in the study and control of yellow fever.
Guerrant was nominated for the Walter Reed medal by Dr. William Petri, chief of the School of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health.
"Dick Guerrant has dedicated his life's work to stopping the ravages of tropical diseases on people around the globe," Petri said. "He leads by example, rolling up his sleeves in the field and challenging assumptions in the laboratory. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this honor than Dick Guerrant."
In 2007, Dr. Guerrant was named an ambassador in the Paul Rogers Society for Global Health Research. Guerrant was one of the society's founding 25 ambassadors.