Ross Boyce

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.c. - Q: You’re in­volved in tick re­search here in the U.S. What gains have you made? Q: How do you feel about where your jour­ney has taken you? Know some­one who would make a good Tar Heel of the Week? Send nom­i­na­tions to tarheel@new­sob­server.com.

decade of Sad­dam (Hus­sein) rule. It was mean­ing­ful to me.

I left Iraq (the first time) feel­ing very like I hadn’t done any­thing good; I’d de­stroyed things. This time I was work­ing with lo­cal peo­ple, build­ing things. It felt very per­sonal and was an el­e­ment of clo­sure for me.

Q: How did your res­i­dency at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Bos­ton lead you to what you’re do­ing now?

A: The pro­gram had a part­ner­ship site in Uganda. I didn’t have any plans to do any­thing in Uganda. I fig­ured I’d go to a place like Syria where there’s con­flict. I went to Uganda to a ru­ral site on the west­ern bor­der of the Congo, and there were kids every­where with malaria just fill­ing up the wards. I had a mo­ment there where I thought, “I could do some­thing about this.”

It was a bet­ter call­ing for me be­cause it was a lot of the same is­sues ... lo­gis­tics (re­quir­ing) a dif­fer­ent prob­lem- solv­ing skill set that I had some ex­pe­ri­ence with be­cause of the Army. It’s about think­ing of dif­fer­ent ways to be cre­ative about mak­ing do with less.

Q: You re­cently re­ceived a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion to con­tinue your work in Uganda. What’s the fo­cus?

A: We just got the Gates grant, but the con­cept be­hind it is ... to make sure kids get all their vac­cines. It’s the cheap­est, most cost-ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tion out there. You vac­ci­nate a child, they’re pro­tected for life. They’ll never get the dis­ease, and it costs like a dol­lar. You can’t do much bet­ter than that. The ques­tion is, how do you get the vac­cine to the peo­ple who can’t get to the clinic?

A: I ended up tak­ing care of this very sick young woman in the hos­pi­tal at UNC and she had ehrli­chio­sis. She had been tested for Rocky Moun­tain spot­ted fever, and it was weakly pos­i­tive. It wasn’t per­fect and didn’t quite fit, but it was enough to Born: Sept. 9, 1978, in At­wa­ter, Calif.

Res­i­dence: Oc­cu­pa­tion: UNC

Hills­bor­ough Physi­cian at

Ed­u­ca­tion: Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in chem­istry from David­son Col­lege; mas­ter’s de­gree from the Lon­don School of Hy­giene & Trop­i­cal Medicine; med­i­cal de­gree from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Fam­ily: Mar­ried with three chil­dren, ages 3, 2 and 6 months

Awards: Three Bronze Star medals from the Army get her started on the treat­ment, doxy­cy­cline. But I wasn’t sat­is­fied with that, and I ended up test­ing for (the bac­te­rial dis­ease) ehrli­chio­sis, and it was very pos­i­tive.

That stim­u­lated my think­ing a lit­tle bit, and I got into the data. I had this idea if I wasn’t aware of that, then most fam­ily prac­tice and front line emer­gency room/ur­gent care doc­tors prob­a­bly didn’t know. What we found is they’re not test­ing for ehrli­chio­sis even though we showed it’s as com­mon, maybe more com­mon, than Rocky Moun­tain spot­ted fever ... and cer­tainly more com­mon than Lyme dis­ease.

A: I led 40 sol­diers in com­bat, and about a quar­ter of them were wounded but ev­ery­body came home alive. I can’t think of any­thing I’m more bonded to than that. On the other hand, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced some of the most hor­ri­ble things I wouldn’t want any­one to see. I take the worst parts of the things I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced and use them for mo­ti­va­tion to do some­thing good.

Cour­tesy of Ross Boyce

Dr. Ross Boyce at UNC-Chapel Hill works to help chil­dren in Uganda get vac­cines to pro­tect against malaria.

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