Outside the office of Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is a handwritten, framed note that states:
Thank you for trying to find a cure for the coronavirus. I wish I was a scientist, but I am too young. Scientists are my heroes.”
That letter is flanked by hand-drawn warnings: “Clinical Researchers are coming 4 U COVID-19!”
It’s been many months since Neuzil and her team started working tirelessly on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Much of her day is spent in back-to-back virtual meetings at her desk speaking with global health officials as she works to set out the course of COVID-19 vaccine research across the country.
The first thing you notice on her desk is a large pack of antibacterial wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Her desk is crowded with stacks of papers, drafts of COVID-19 manuscripts, and copies of research articles from peer institutions.
Even though she spends the bulk of the day at work on campus, family is a central focus. Neuzil’s bulletin board is covered with pictures of her family and drawings from the children she has met in her research. And, of course, only an infectious disease specialist would have a plush red toy shaped like a typhoid bacterium.
A key focus of Neuzil’s work is to mentor the next generation of vaccinologists and infectious disease researchers. Next to all of her family photos are pictures of the young researchers she has mentored.