The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), are virtually nonexistent in developed countries, continue to wreak havoc in the poorest, most marginalized communities of the world. Dr. Tobin Dickerson is working not only to diagnose and treat these devastating diseases, but to eliminate them.
As Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Worm Institute for Research and Medicine (WIRM) at The Scripps Research Institute, Dickerson is focused on developing technologies that can help identify, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as NTDs. It’s the kind of work that has always appealed to him. “I was always the sort of kid who liked to play with technological toys,” he says. “So the fact that we develop these technologies has always been satisfying, because we get to use the most cutting edge tools we can find and put them together in ways that actually help people.”
But Dickerson won’t always be found sitting in his lab working with high-tech tools. He considers it vitally important to spend time in the field, meeting the people who suffer from infectious diseases and seeing how their lives have been affected. “Having patient contact is important for humanizing disease – especially in terms of diseases we don’t see in the West,” he explains. “It can be really difficult to imagine the impact of a disease if there are never any cases in the US. So I send students to countries where they can actually see what they’re working on and see the impact they can have.”
Dickerson began his studies at the University of Virginia, where the TYLENOL® Future Care Scholarship helped him earn a degree in Chemistry. He says students today have the opportunity to work in science and healthcare during a particularly exciting time. “Instead of just treating a disease, we’re trying to get rid of it,” he says. “We’re using the science that’s coming out of labs, like genomics, to really understand what diseases are and how we can eliminate them rather than just treating their symptoms.”