Larry McDermott, MD, is a pulmonologist who has worked in patient care for over twenty-five years. Most recently he has also overseen clinical trials for asthma drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. He has long been interested in drug development for both neglected diseases and global populations with unmet needs. So as he approached his golden birthday and took stock of his career, Larry decided to return to school to develop new skills in public health.
Enrolled in the Advanced Professional MPH program’s health policy track, Larry has taken on projects that look at some hard questions about how best to use limited resources. For example, for his practicum, he looked at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation for helminth control measures in Africa. A hundred years ago in the United States, the Rockefeller Foundation donated a million dollars to build modern sanitation systems in the southern states to eliminate these parasitic infections, but there are still parts of Africa where there is poor sanitation. Parasites, such as hookworm and tapeworm, cause a wide spectrum of infections that lead to anemia, cognitive impairment, chronic illness and sometimes death.
In endemic areas, the WHO recommends one dose of medication one or two times per year for all children. “This reduces intensity of infections, but is not curative and could contribute to drug resistance,” says Larry. It is not a replacement for sanitation. “We need a more rational approach with monitoring to identify areas where these diseases can be eliminated rather than just suppressed.”
Returning to school after working so many years has been refreshing, says Larry. “Yale is a collegial place and there is respect for students’ intellect, even if we are just learning in certain subject areas.” He looks forward to staying engaged with his colleagues and faculty mentors.