Infectious disease researcher to speak at Voices from the Vanguard Lecture Series

The University of Georgia Voices from the Vanguard series concludes April 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the UGA Chapel with a presentation by Nancy Gore Saravia, Ph.D., scientific director of Centro Internacional de Entrenamiento e Investigaciones Medicas (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia.

Saravia’s talk, “Confessions of a Leishmaniac,” speaks to her passion for the study of leishmaniasis, a disease transmitted by the bite of a female sandfly. The lecture is free and open to the public. 

The relationship between Leishmania and its hosts has evolved over millions of years, and Saravia and her multidisciplinary team have spent decades unraveling it. Her quest to understand leishmaniasis has been illuminating, humbling and surprising—and has advanced diagnosis, treatment and control while building research capacity in a country where the disease is endemic.

In 1985, Saravia became the director of the Tulane University Colciencias International Center for Medical Research and Treatment Technical Assistance Mission in Cali. Four years later she guided its transition into the Columbian non-profit research center that is now CIDEIM.

Saravia’s research, coupled with her passion and determination, has earned her the Jose Celestino Mutis Medal of the Colombian Industry of Health in addition to her adoption as a Colombian citizen by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations. She has also won the Moselio Schaechter distinguished service award of the American Society for Microbiology and the Baily K. Ashford and Ben Kean medals of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

“Nancy Saravia is an incredible scientist, teacher and administrator – which is a very tough combination of talents to find in one person,” said Dan Colley, Director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Disease. “She has not only done ground-breaking research on leishmaniasis, but through her teaching and founding of CIDEIM she has positively influenced countless Colombian scientists and visiting trainees from all over the world.”

Despite her many accomplishments, Saravia’s influence doesn’t stop at CIDEIM. She has served on advisory committees for many national and international organizations, including Colciencias, the World Health Organization, the Wellcome Trust, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the Pan American Health Organization.

“Establishing a free-standing scientific institute and keeping it running would be a full time job for most people,” said Colley. “Nancy has done that while pursuing her research passions and leading many others down the same path.”

Saravia earned her master’s degree in pathobiology and environmental health from Johns Hopkins University in 1972 and her Ph.D. in microbiology from Vanderbilt University in 1978. Shortly after, she did post-doctorate research in immunobiology from University of Wisconsin.

This marks the ninth year for the global disease lecture series sponsored by the Grady College Health and Medical Journalism program and UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. Daniel G. Colley, professor of microbiology and director of CTEGD, shares the organizing with Thomas. This lecture is the last of three and is included in UGA’s Freshman Odyssey Seminar calendar.

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Date: April 8, 2014
Author:  Samantha Slappey,
Contact:  Sarah Freeman,