Media Briefing:
Ticks, Mosquitoes, and Human Health

Panelist Biographies

Dr. Lyric Bartholomay


Dr. Lyric Bartholomay is a Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also a Director of the CDC-funded Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, in Madison, which aims to understand the impact of vector-control practices on public health and develop novel vector-control methodologies. Dr. Bartholomay’s basic research and training programs encompass field and experimental biology. They emphasize exploration and manipulation of the interactions between arthropod hosts and pathogens (including viruses, protozoan and metazoan parasites) to develop novel strategies to control transmission of disease agents. She also has developed and implemented a mosquito biology and vector-control curriculum for use with children living in underserved communities.

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Dr. Ben Beard

Dr. Charles Benjamin (Ben) Beard is Deputy Director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Throughout his tenure at CDC, Dr. Beard has worked in the prevention of vector-borne diseases, both in domestic and global arenas. His scientific interests include public health and the biology and genetics of insect-borne diseases and vectors. Prior to CDC, from 1987 to 1991, he trained as a post-doctoral fellow and then worked as an associate research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine. In 1991, he joined CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases, where he conducted research on the prevention and control of malaria and Chagas disease and studied the epidemiology of Pneumocystis pneumonia in persons with AIDS. Most recently, he led the Bacterial Diseases Branch for DVBD where he coordinated CDC's national programs on Lyme disease, plague, and tularemia before being appointed Deputy Director in 2018.

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Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi

Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Associate Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor in Pediatrics and Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, is an internationally recognized vaccinologist and global health advocate. As Co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, she has more than two decades of experience in applying a product development partnership model to build sustainable global biotechnology capacity and training programs that have successfully transitioned neglected tropical disease vaccines from bench to clinic. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine, the Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum. Currently, she is also an Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine Scholar of the National Academy of Medicine.

Rick Weiss (moderator)

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Rick Weiss is the Director of SciLine.

He has more than three decades of experience in journalism and public affairs, including 15 years as a science reporter at the Washington Post and more than a decade leading strategic communications and media relations activities around issues of science and technology in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. While at The Post, Rick wrote more than 1,000 news and feature articles about advances in science and technology and their economic, societal, and ethical implications. His awards include the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing’s Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting and the National Association of Science Writers’ Science and Society Award.

Rick earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a license in medical technology with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife Natalie Angier, the New York Times science writer and author.


About This Media Briefing

In the United States, reported cases of human diseases caused by infected ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas tripled from 2004 to 2016. This increase is fueled by many factors, including climate-change related increases in rainfall, temperature, and extreme weather events that have enhanced the abundance disease-spreading vectors. Other shifts—in human land use and activity patterns—have also increased contact between people and infected organisms. The result is a growing U.S. public-health challenge. SciLine’smedia briefing covered the status of vector-borne disease in the United States, projected future trends, associated health risks, and emerging research on methods for prevention and control.