As part of a collaborative effort of PRCCI and the University of Georgia, a leading group of world-class researchers specializing in tropical diseases have come together to discuss treatments and prevention mechanisms for diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

Puerto Rico has extensive experience dealing with tropical diseases such as dengue, which infects thousands of residents each year. With the recent outbreak of Zika, there is a renewed sense of urgency to treat and prevent such tropical diseases. 

In February, the Trust members convened one of the first small symposiums on rapid diagnostic testing for tropical diseases. They have since called for an urgent meeting to discuss a comprehensive and effective vector control strategy for Puerto Rico to be held on May 23, 24, and 25 of 2016 at PRST. A small group of experts from the Puerto Rico State Health Department, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and leading entomologists and ecologists will convene to discuss risks and benefits of implementing various strategies.    

Dr. Jose F. Cordero, Principal Investigator of the Brain Trust

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Dr. Jose F. Cordero is the Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Chair, of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia.  He joined the UGA on August 2015. He served for 27 years in the US Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During his years at CDC he was appointed Assistant Surgeon General of the Public Health Service and held positions focused on improving the health of mothers, children and adults in programs such as immunizations, birth defects and disabilities. In 1994, he was appointed Deputy Director of the National Immunization Program and in 2001 he was selected as the founding Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, the position that he held until his retirement. 

He served as the Dean of the School of Public Health in the University of Puerto Rico from 2006-2015. A former President of Teratology Society, he is Co-Principal investigator of the Puerto Rico Test site for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) a Superfund Research Program that examines environmental risks for preterm births, and CRECE (Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico) that examines prenatal exposures and their impact on neurodevelopment in the first five years of life. Dr. Cordero serves as advisor of the Americas Dengue Board and is member of the International Data Monitoring Committee for the Sanofi Pasteur Dengue Vaccine. He is the Principal Investigator of the Brain Trust for Tropical Disease Research and Prevention, a group that seeks to facilitate and accelerate the development of rapid tests for diseases like Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and others. He also serves as the National Trustee of the March of Dimes, a foundation with a mission of helping mothers have healthy pregnancies and to fund research on the problems that threaten the health of babies.  

Leslie Maas Cortes, Coordinator of the Brain Trust

Ms. Leslie Maas Cortes runs the day to operations of the Puerto Rico Brain Trust for Tropical Disease Research and Prevention. She has worked closely with Dr. Jose Cordero to create the Trust since December of 2014. Prior to this she worked as a public health consultant for the Puerto Rico Governor’s Commission for Violence Prevention and the University of Puerto Rico federally funded Center for Youth Violence Prevention. Her main focus was on improved quality of data and monitoring of violent events and evaluation of interventions being conducted at the Center for Youth Violence Prevention.  Leslie has also been an active volunteer for the US fund for UNICEF.       

She served as coordinator of the Wisconsin Injury Control Research Center and director of the CDC funded regional Injury Control Research Center (ICRC) at the Medical College of Wisconsin from 1999 until 2003. She was responsible for operations at the ICRC and their mission was to reduce the burden of illness and death from injury related causes. Her specific research focused on water safety, injury risk to international travelers and patient safety efforts. In this role she gained experience in meeting planning, site visit preparations, and grant preparation.       

Before beginning her career, Leslie completed her graduate work in the area of International Health and applied nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her masters work involved conducting extensive anthropometric data collection and nutritional surveys, qualitative field work and intervention development to reduce obesity and diabetes in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.