Remembering Nancy Cruz Ortiz
29 January, 1978 to 3 August, 2012
TDR fondly remembers Nancy Cruz-Ortiz, who was a beacon of light and contagious energy in the prevention and control of diseases of poverty. As an investigator, as Coordinator of the reference laboratory for onchocerciasis elimination in the Americas at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), and as a trainer in TDR’s Effective Project Planning and Evaluation (EPPE) training programme within the Latin American Network, she empowered others, and they are her legacy.
Although very young, Nancy had already been instrumental in certifying the elimination of transmission in three onchocerciasis foci in Guatemala, and supported similar certifications in Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. Nancy’s support was not limited to the Americas: she traveled to Uganda several times to help establish a reference laboratory to support the monitoring and evaluation of onchocerciasis foci in Africa.
Nancy began her academic career at the UVG in 1999 as a student in the Department of Biochemistry and graduated in 2005. She soon began supporting public health research through projects on the prevalence of cardiac abnormalities associated with Chagas’ disease, the nutritional impact of soil-transmitted helminths in schoolchildren and multiple studies on the diagnosis and treatment of leishmaniasis. She earned a master’s degree in Immunology and Immunogenetics from the University of Manchester in 2012, and was to begin doctoral studies at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, before her life was cut short.
Nancy was one of those rare public health professionals who bridged the lab and the field; she was equally happy dressed in a pristine, white, lab coat with pipette in hand, as she was wearing mud-encrusted boots searching for individuals suffering from leishmaniasis in remote areas of the Petén. Nancy was a true humanitarian and found innumerable ways to help residents of the areas where she worked as a researcher, including raising funds to build a rural school and personally arranging transport for a young girl with a congenital cardiac defect from a remote area to Guatemala City for regular medical appointments. Nancy’s extraordinary scientific skills were the product of close attention to the details of her work, and yet, remarkably, she had a fulfilling and important artistic side that was equally attentive to the minutiae of movement and rhythm. Nancy is survived by her parents and two siblings and fondly remembered by her colleagues and friends around the world.
For more information, please contact