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College of Public Service Names Social Work Persons of The Year

Dr. Peter J. Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi Honored March 24


By Sheryl E. Taylor

It’s an annual tradition, but this year will be slightly different.

Each year, the University of Houston-Downtown Center for Public Service & Community Research (within the UHD College of Public Service Social Work Program) selects one individual to be honored as its Social Work Person of the Year.

But the past few years have been far from normal … in fact, unprecedented, thanks to COVID-19. So, it’s befitting that the College of Public Service is recognizing two persons to share the honor — top vaccine experts Dr. Peter J. Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, who are also nominees for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Bottazzi

“Now in our 11th year, the UHD Social Work Person of the Year celebration is about creating opportunities for our students to learn, grow, and most importantly be inspired by examples of transformative public service,” said Dr. Dawn McCarty, Professor and Director of the Social Work Program. “In these COVID-19 times, Drs. Bottazzi and Hotez have done something extraordinary for the common good in their development of a vaccine that is patent-free and thus accessible and affordable worldwide. We’re excited to hear more about the story of their historic accomplishment and to honor this achievement.”

Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher nominated Hotez and Bottazzi for the Nobel Prize.

In a recent press release, Fletcher noted that she nominated the pair because “as people around the world confront the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effort to develop and distribute a low-cost vaccine to all people in all nations without patent limitation represents the work for fraternity between nations and people that the Nobel Peace Prize embodies and celebrates. Dr. Hotez and Dr. Bottazzi’s effort to develop the CORBEVAX vaccine is truly one of international cooperation and partnership to bring health, security, and peace around the world. It is a contribution that is of the greatest benefit to humankind.” Hotez and Bottazzi’s CORBEVAX vaccine has been authorized in India.

Dr. Hotez“Dr. Bottazzi and I have worked together for years, and our purpose has never changed—to bring attention to the neglected diseases of poverty and build a new generation of vaccine in the pursuit of global vaccine diplomacy,” said Hotez, Dean of the Baylor College of Medicine National School of Tropical Medicine. Bottazzi serves as Associate Dean, and the pair co-direct the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development.

Last year, Hotez participated in a virtual discussion with UHD President Loren J. Blanchard — “COVID-19 Health, Safety and Vaccine” — as part of the University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information Forums.

Hotez and Bottazzi join an elite group of Houstonians who have earned the honor of Social Work Person of the Year. Previous honorees include former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins; restaurateur Russell Ybarra; Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg; Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale; Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; Pulitzer Prize-winning Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg; and BakerRipley President Emerita Angela Blanchard.

Hotez and Bottazzi will be honored by UHD’s Social Work Program during a virtual ceremony 6 - 7 p.m., Thursday, March 24. To attend this virtual event, register online.

 Learn more at uhd.edu/vitalvoices.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.