David Shoultz recently joined PATH as the program leader for drug development. Before PATH, he served as the Director of Grantee and Partner Engagement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he worked to deepen engagement between partner organizations. We spoke to him recently to find out what first drew him to global health, what inspires and motivates him, what opportunities and challenges he sees, and what he envisions for PATH’s Drug Development program.
Who inspires you?
I draw a lot of inspiration from Marc LaForce’s work to develop MenAfriVac®, a new vaccine for meningitis. Marc started by putting a lot of trust in end users and potential customers—ministries of health and community clinics—by asking what they needed most from a new vaccine. Overwhelmingly, he heard that it had to work against meningitis A (the most common type of meningitis in the region), it had to be safe and effective, and most importantly, it had to be inexpensive.
Keeping these requirements at the forefront, Marc and his team were able to develop a vaccine in record time and at one-tenth the cost of a typical vaccine. With more than 217 million people vaccinated so far and plans to include MenAfriVac® in routine childhood immunization programs, it has the potential to wipe out a disease that has been a scourge in the region. I truly admire Marc’s vision, persistence, and leadership on this project.
What first drew you to global health?
My mother, Janice Shoultz, was an early influence. She recently retired, but for many years, she was a professor of community health nursing at the University of Hawaii. She focused on issues affecting rural communities, including domestic violence and nutrition. Watching her career develop, I saw the passion and the reward, and I got to know more about the critical work she did. She spent a month working in rural health care in China in the early 1980s, and it was a mind-expanding experience to begin to understand what rural health care is and how it compares between China and the United States. Her stories and pictures from that trip helped to fuel my early interest in global health.
Later, I was drawn into global health by Dr. King Holmes at the University of Washington. In the 1990s, global health was considered a niche field, primarily known as tropical medicine and hygiene. King drew me to global health as we know it today, teaching me the critical value of understanding the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of the people that we intend for our global health interventions to benefit. I was—and am to this day—inspired by his ingenuity, generosity, and work ethic.