Washington, DC — The Inter-American Dialogue will recognize the extraordinary international mobilization of researchers, health professionals, and advocates to address the Zika virus this year by honoring Dr. Vanessa Van Der Linden Mota of Brazil with this year’s annual Leadership for the Americas Award. Dr. Van Der Linden Mota is accepting the award on behalf of innumerable innovators who are shedding new light on emerging health issues and their wide-ranging social and economic consequences in the Americas. The award will be presented at the Dialogue’s Leadership for the Americas Awards Gala on November 16, 2016. Over 500 US and foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC.

The Dialogue’s Gala Committee sought to recognize and encourage the effective international cooperation that the global health community has brought to improve the quality of investments in health across the region in the period ahead.

Dr. Van Der Linden Mota, a pediatric neurologist practicing in Recife, Brazil, joined other physicians and health officials to bring the apparent connection between the Zika virus and birth defects to the attention of policymakers, the media, and health advocates, and thus accelerated a global response to the crisis.  After noticing an unusual number of birth defects among babies born to mothers who had reported symptoms from the mosquito-borne Zika virus during pregnancy, she and other colleagues flagged the possible link to health authorities in her state of Pernambuco. Dr. Van Der Linden Mota consulted with her mother and brother, also pediatric physicians who had observed similar correlations, and many other researchers, who worked together to pressure state health officials to run more tests and ultimately confirm the link. 

“This year the Dialogue has chosen to recognize an exceptional leader who has made an extraordinary contribution to a key component of the Dialogue’s mission: fostering social equity in the Americas,” said Ambassador Carla A. Hills, former US Trade Representative and co-chair of the Dialogue’s Board of Directors. “Dr. Van Der Linden Mota sounded the alarm on the need for scientific research to focus on shared health concerns that extend beyond political borders while she continues to treat her patients in a public hospital in Recife.”

Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, co-chair of the Dialogue’s Board of Directors, said, “Doctor Mota epitomizes the kind of leadership, wisdom and courage needed to trigger the international cooperative effort that is indispensable to deal with the global health threat posed by the Zika virus. Hence the Board’s decision to recognize her.”

“The Dialogue works to build cooperation on the most critical challenges facing the Americas, and to foster collaborative approaches to address them. In these ways our honoree and her colleagues in the health community embody the spirit of the Dialogue. Our Board has called upon Dialogue members and other global leaders to redouble efforts to coordinate new fact-based scientific research, identify innovative solutions to combat problems, and mobilize resources to address issues that cut across so many sections of society that are affected by shared health priorities,” said Michael Shifter, the Dialogue’s President.

About the Inter-American Dialogue

The Inter-American Dialogue engages its network of global leaders to foster democratic governance, prosperity, and social equity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Together, we shape policy debate, generate ideas, devise solutions, and enhance collaboration within the Western Hemisphere. For more information, visit www.thedialogue.org.

###