USF Health ally receives global leadership award at summer commencement

The University of South Florida presented Dr. Jorge Motta with the President’s Global Leadership Award at summer commencement Aug. 9. The award recognizes “exemplary accomplishments in international leadership or global relations.”

It is the latest of multiple accolades for Motta, whose previous recognitions include the Gorgas Medal and the James D. Bruce Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions in Preventive Medicine from the American College of Physicians.

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L to R: USF President Judy Genshaft; Dr. Jorge Motta, recipient of the President’s Global Leadership Award; and Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health

Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, presented Motta with a Pioneer Research in Public Health award earlier this year as part of the Panama Canal centennial celebration.

Presently Panama’s secretary of science, technology and innovation, Motta has partnered with the USF College of Public Health on numerous international health initiatives for a decade. The USF Health International Foundation is located in Panama.

In addition to his duties with the government of Panama and his collaborative work with USF, Motta serves on the board of directors of the City of Knowledge and is an investigator at the Gorgas Memorial Research Institute.

He is a past president of the Panamanian Academy of Medicine and Surgery, former governor for Central America of the American College of Physicians, and former chair of the Joint Commission of the Special Programme for Research and Education on Neglected Infectious Diseases, which is associated with UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

“I have collaborated with Dr. Motta for many years, mainly during his time as general director of the Gorgas Memorial Institute,” said Dr. Arlene Calvo, a Panama-based research assistant professor in the Department of Community and Family Health.

“One of the first activities we did together was the Gorgas annual conference, which USF helped sponsor, and where we signed our first agreement of collaboration. It was the beginning of a fruitful and lasting partnership,” Calvo said.

“He has always been a strong supporter of the USF program in Panama, serving as part of our local advisory group, assisting in identifying sources of funding, and placing us in contact with important potential collaborators locally and internationally.

“At a personal level,” she said, “he has guided me in development of local health policy and educational efforts in Panama and the region. The first time I ever visited a Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous community was with Dr. Motta. Since then, I’ve been hooked on working with this population, and it’s been close to 10 years!”

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Motta studied biology at Georgetown University and earned his master’s in public health and doctor of medicine degrees at Yale University. He completed his training in internal medicine and cardiology at Stanford University.

Although his specialty is cardiology, Motta’s broad international endeavors have involved him in a variety of other areas including epidemiology, especially studies of influenza and infectious tropical diseases such as dengue fever and malaria.His recent work as a Gorgas researcher has focused on the genetic origin of the Panamanian population and epidemiological studies of cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer in Panama.

“He is a wise and visionary leader, respectful and highly knowledgeable,” Calvo said. “I am proud of his numerous achievements and hope to continue collaborating with him for a long time.”

Story by David Brothers, USF College of Public Health