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Trevathan named director for the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health

Nov. 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, a pediatric neurologist and epidemiologist who has previously held prominent university leadership positions at Washington University in St. Louis (director of Pediatric Neurology), St. Louis University (dean, School of Public Health) and Baylor University (Provost and Executive Vice President) as well as at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been appointed director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH), effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH

Formed in 2005 to lead international health initiatives, the VIGH leads interdisciplinary global health education and training programs, conducts clinical and translational research in communicable and non-communicable diseases affecting low- and middle-income countries, uses implementation science and quality improvement to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare delivery in these settings, and provides technical assistance to government and civil sector organizations in countries supported by the President’s Emergency Plan HIV/AIDS Relief.

VIGH faculty have special expertise in multiple fields, including HIV, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, medical anthropology, nutrition, informatics and epidemiology, working in communities in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia.

Trevathan, who joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in 2016 as a professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, succeeds the Institute’s founding director, Sten Vermund, MD, PhD. Vermund is now dean of the Yale University School of Public Health.

In addition to serving at St. Louis University as dean of the School of Public Health, Trevathan was also the founding dean of the College for Public Health and Social Justice and the founding director of the Institute for Global Health & Wellbeing. At the CDC he directed the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Under his leadership the CDC engaged in several collaborations in China, Latin America and Africa. Trevathan also served as strategic lead for the CDC’s response to the 2009 worldwide H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Trevathan is the author or co-author of more than 100 clinical and scientific publications. His research interests include maternal-child epidemiology, epidemiology of childhood neurological disorders and clinical trials of treatments for childhood epilepsy and other neurological disorders. His global health experience includes work in China, Nigeria, Honduras, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is currently leading a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study, in collaboration with his VIGH co-principal investigator, Muktar Aliyu, DrPH, MPH, to develop new approaches to provide epilepsy care to children in Nigeria, a critical problem there and in many healthcare resource limited settings.

“We are fortune to have someone with Dr. Trevathan’s history as a leader in global health initiatives in our midst. Ed’s career-long commitment to help solve the most challenging health issues facing medically underserved regions around the world makes him a natural choice for the important role the VIGH plays in our mission,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The search committee to identify Trevathan as the next VIGH leader was chaired by Robert Dittus, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President for Public Health and Health Care, Senior Associate Dean for Population Health Sciences, and Director, Institute for Medicine and Public Health. Other members of the search committee included: Aliyu, Michael DeBaun, MD, MPH, Katherine Hartmann, MD, Douglas Heimburger, MD, Simon Mallal, MBBS, Bonnie Miller, MD, and Timothy Sterling, MD.

Trevathan said what attracted him to the leadership role at the VIGH was its potential to “leverage expertise all over Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University to make a difference in global health.” He said he hopes to oversee development of a strategic plan that matches Vanderbilt’s strengths and expertise with global health challenges in a highly focused and sustainable way.

“Vanderbilt faculty and staff are already doing fantastic work in global health,” Trevathan said. “The question is how do you harness and organize that work and attract people to problems we think can be solved using our skills? Nothing could be more transformative.”

“Ed is a thoughtful and experienced leader who has the vision to guide the already outstanding VIGH toward even greater impact within Vanderbilt and across the globe and the skills to successfully implement that vision,” Dittus said. “VIGH programs are essential to improving health in numerous resource limited settings and foundational to helping and guiding the Vanderbilt community engage in this critically important work.”

A native of Nashville, Trevathan earned his bachelor’s degree from Nashville’s Lipscomb University and his MD and MPH degrees from Emory University in Atlanta.

He received residency training in pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine and in neurology and child neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and was a fellow in clinical neurophysiology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Trevathan joined the CDC in Atlanta in 1987 where, as an epidemic intelligence service officer, he helped define a new neurogenetic syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and played a role in establishing public health surveillance systems for developmental disabilities and the first major surveillance system for childhood epilepsy.

In 1995 Trevathan was named professor and associate chief of the neurology service and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the University of Kentucky. Three years later he accepted positions as professor and director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

In 2004 Trevathan was appointed director of the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine and as neurologist-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“Dr. Trevathan is the quintessential administrator, teacher, clinician and investigator. We were lucky to be able to attract him to Vanderbilt,” said Steven Webber, MBChB, James C. Overall Professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “His broad background and expertise will allow VIGH to expand and excel in areas of both communicable and non-communicable disorders on a global scale.”

Trevathan said he will continue to see patients in the Pediatric Neurology program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, although on a more limited basis.

At the national level, Trevathan has served on the Federal Advisory Committee of the National Children’s Study, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, the Muscular Dystrophy Coordinating Committee and various committees of the Institute of Medicine and of the World Health Organization.

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