Rheingans receives UF’s International Educator of the Year award

Dr. Richard Rheingans on a research trip to Bangladesh.

Richard Rheingans, Ph.D., an associate professor in the college’s department of environmental and global health and UF’s Center for African Studies, has been named the University of Florida 2012 International Educator of the Year in the junior faculty category. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the internationalization of UF’s campus.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to work on a range of global issues here at UF,” said Rheingans, a member of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. “We have amazing students and faculty, and I’m convinced we’ve only begun to tap our potential impact on the broader world.”

Rheingans teaches courses in global health and is a core faculty member of the university’s master’s in sustainable development practice degree program.

“He doesn’t just engage students, he inspires them to change their world,” said Gregory Gray, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the department of environmental and global health. “In this last year alone, Rick had six students deeply involved in complex international needs assessment projects regarding childhood vaccinations. It is clear from the students’ work and presentations that they are deeply vested in this work and are considering emulating Rick in their careers.”

In his research Rheingans investigates the economics of infectious diseases and environmental health hazards in developing countries, with an emphasis on diarrheal disease and prevention. His studies on water and sanitation focus on alternative strategies for delivering treated water, the causes and effects of disparities in water and sanitation access, and the development of practical and sustainable methods that reach large numbers of people.

Rheingans recently completed projects on the economics of rotavirus vaccination in 23 low-income countries. Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in children and is responsible for more than half a million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. In addition to estimating the cost-effectiveness of vaccination, Rheingans is interested in how economic information can be used to support policy decisions and improve access to vaccines. Health officials in developing nations and leaders at global non-profit agencies, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, use Rheingans’ findings to shape their vaccination program policies.