Not all gifts come in a box with a bow tied on top. For some, it’s a gift of life after surviving an illness or a child born into a family. For others, it’s an experience with a loved one that leaves a lasting memory. For Stanley G. Schultz, MD, the gift that changed his life came in the form of a cholera toxin sample, which inspired his passion for global health.
As a captain in the medical corps at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Schultz discovered in 1962 that restoring the body’s balance of salt and glucose resulted in rapid rehydration in the mucus lining of intestines. All that was needed was a small packet of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and glucose mixed into a gallon of drinking water.
His finding resulted in the development of a lifesaving oral rehydration therapy—a simple, inexpensive treatment that could be served as a beverage—which saved tens of millions of people around the world. In 2003, the American Physiological Society honored Schultz with the Daggs Award for his lifelong work in this area, and in 2006, his work was internationally recognized when he received the Prince Mahidol Award in Medicine by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
Schultz joined the faculty of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in 1979, serving as Chair of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and Dean of the school from 2003 to 2006. Before his retirement in 2010, Schultz’s pioneering research and exceptional mentorship set into motion a series of events that ultimately bolstered global health training at the school. Known for his sage advice, he impressed upon medical students the importance of using their hands, eyes, ears, and head when caring for patients.
“I implore you as you progress in your studies, don’t ever treat your patients like case numbers—a disease in need of a cure,” Schultz told first-year medical students during the school’s White Coat Ceremony in August 2004. “They are people who have feelings, loved ones, and aspirations. Become a healer, not a repairman.”
In spring 2020, his family watched from afar as UTHealth’s health care professionals rapidly created the frontlines of defense against COVID-19. The pandemic punctuated the significance of global health and instilled in the Schultz family an urgency to respond with the creation of the Stanley G. Schultz, MD, Endowed Professorship in Global Health.
“On the sixth anniversary of his death in 2014, we wanted to find a way to ensure that his global health efforts continue through others,” says his wife, Harriet.
“In the midst of a pandemic, it has become increasingly obvious to everyone around the world how important global health is and how in many ways it has been too much of an afterthought,” explains his son Kenneth. “It seems very appropriate at this time to do whatever we can to support this effort and call attention to the importance of global health now and in the future.”
“Our dad was passionate about getting discoveries out of the lab, into the field, and into the hands of those in need,” adds Jeffrey, his other son. “The professorship is about that need to be there, to be hands-on.”
Patricia Butler, MD, fondly recalls Schultz’s dedication to his students and global health. “Dr. Schultz was passionate about educating our students about global health,” Butler says. “He would have been delighted that his family has endowed this professorship in his name.”
As a leader of the global health scholarly concentration at McGovern Medical School, Deepa Iyengar, MD, was the ideal candidate to become the inaugural holder of the Schultz Professorship in Global Health.
While completing a family medicine residency, Iyengar met Schultz during a presentation on oral hydration therapy. It was that meeting, she says, that established the roots of her interest in global health. She now co-directs the Center for Global Health at McGovern Medical School and has a vision for expanding the center’s activities university-wide. She also studies how cultural backgrounds impact health.
“Dr. Schultz leaves such a big legacy and gives us all a reason to pursue our dreams,” Iyengar says. “I am so grateful to the family and value this professorship, which will allow me to put into action some of the global health initiatives he would have hoped for.”