Leading Voices Series

Contact: Brad Lifford
November 11, 2010

JOHNSON CITY – A researcher renowned for his work on the spread of human disease will visit East Tennessee State University on Tuesday, Nov. 16, as part of the Leading Voices in Public Health Lecture Series.

Dr. Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a professor of math biology at Arizona State University (ASU), is known internationally for his use of mathematical modeling to better understand disease and epidemic outbreaks. Castillo-Chavez’s talk, Public Health Policy and National Security: Life in the Times of Emergent and Re-Emergent Diseases, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Grand Soldiers Ballroom at the Carnegie Hotel. Admission is free.

The Leading Voices Lecture Series is presented by the ETSU College of Public Health, with other ETSU entities serving as co-sponsors for the Nov. 16 event, including the Public Health Student Association, the Institute for Quantitative Biology and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Castillo-Chavez is director of Arizona State’s Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, which brings together quantitative scientists and mathematicians with the goal of producing solutions to problems in the biological, environmental and social sciences. The ASU professor has a special interest in understanding how and why diseases spread in communities.

“The prevalence of massive local systems of transportation in major cities enhances the impacts that millions of daily interactions between individuals have on the transmission dynamics and evolution of diseases like influenza or rotavirus or tuberculosis, to name a few,” Castillo-Chavez said. “In Mexico City, for example, more than 5 million individuals travel in packed subway cars for over an hour each day, establishing an ideal environment for the transmission of communicable diseases.”

Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the College of Public Health, expects Castillo-Chavez’s talk to prompt some thought-provoking discussions on the current risk for disease spread and what can be done to prevent epidemics. And thought-provoking discussion is par for the course when it comes to the Leading Voices in Public Health Lecture Series, with four more scheduled lectures in 2010-11 that will feature experts with an international profile.

“All of the speakers understand that the audience is not just health care professionals, so the talks are presented in a format that is both understandable and motivating,” Wykoff said. “And it’s extremely important to me that people understand that these events are free and open to the public.”

The Leading Voices series dates back to 2006. The impressive list of past speakers includes a former U.S. vice president (Al Gore Jr.), a former U.S. Senate majority leader (Bill Frist), two former U.S. surgeons general (David Satcher and Richard Carmona) and a Grammy-nominated singer (“Big Kenny” Alphin). The common thread is that all speakers focus on issues that threaten our health.

Wykoff had an eye on the interdisciplinary nature of public health when he assembled a roster of speakers for 2010-11.

“I am especially proud of this year’s lineup,” Wykoff said. “We’ve had a business school professor and we’re getting ready to host an internationally recognized  mathematician. We’ll also have a worldwide leader in asthma research, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, an actor and a storyteller. All are bringing a unique perspective to a common challenge: How do we use all of our skills, creativity and entrepreneurial energy to improve health?”

Other dates from the 2010-11 Leading Voices in Public Health Lecture Series include:

On Jan. 27, An Evening of Health, Wellness, and the Arts, features an oral history theatre piece, Dispatches from the Other Kingdom: The Cancer Journey, conceived by Dr. Joseph Sobol and members of the ETSU Storytelling Program, as well as actor David Nathan Schwartz, from Los Angeles, performing his solo work, My Brain Tumor: A Mind Expanding Comedy.

On Feb. 17, Ambassador Eric Goosby will discuss his work as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and the global partnership that is needed to fight HIV.

On March 3, Dr. Greg Diette, who is an associate professor and expert on the epidemiology of lung diseases at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will present The Mouse, the House, and the Hamburger: Making Sense of the Asthma Epidemic.

For more information or to request special assistance, call (423) 439-4597 or send e-mails to osborneg@etsu.edu. Past speakers in the series, as well as videos of some lectures, can be viewed on the College of Public Health’s Web site at Leading Voices in Public Health.