Marie Donahue, a longtime global health specialist, has become the managing director of the Notre Dame Haiti Program. Donahue, who was educated at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, will work with Rev. Thomas Streit, C.S.C., Ph.D., the Program’s founder and head researcher, on efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Haiti by 2020. Earl Carter, the assistant dean for faculty affairs and special projects in the College of Science, had been interim managing director since December 2013.
“Marie brings a wealth of experience, energy, and new ideas to advance the success of this initiative that is such a great example of our mission at Notre Dame,” said Greg Crawford, the former William K. Warren Dean of the College of Science, now vice president and associate provost, who appointed Donahue. “We have conducted vital research and discovery to fight this disease while serving the people of Haiti in so many ways.”
Under Carter’s leadership, a project to manufacture and distribute fortified salt on the island has accelerated along with grant development and fundraising to support the work. “Earl led the program through a particularly important time in its history, and oversaw some amazing accomplishments,” Crawford said.
LF, also known as elephantiasis, is a debilitating condition caused by a mosquito-borne parasite that causes grotesque swelling of the legs and other areas of the body. In 1997, The World Health Organization targeted LF as one of six eradicable diseases and set the goal of eliminating it globally by 2020. Salt fortified with a chemical to fight the parasite can help prevent the disease. The salt produced in Haiti is also fortified with iodine, and provides the nation’s first supply of iodized salt.
The Haiti Program, founded by Streit in 1993, has worked with the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) and other partners including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Notre Dame family, and others. Preliminary survey results earlier this year from one area showed that LF infection rates are at least 99 percent lower than a decade ago.