Who is Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez? The face leading the fight against the new coronavirus


Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez has become one of the most important figures of the current year for Mexico. Without fear of exaggerating, one could say that he is the face of the government in the fight against the new coronavirus pandemic.

As Undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion, López-Gatell has been in charge of communicating, day by day, the progress of the pandemic in the country and coordinating efforts to mitigate its consequences.

Hugo López-Gatell studied Medicine at the UNAM School of Medicine where he graduated as a Medical Surgeon. Afterward, he specialized in Internal Medicine at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán. His postgraduate studies began at UNAM, too, with a Master's degree in Medical Sciences and, finally, at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the United States, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.

During his studies, López-Gatell met the current Secretary of Health, Dr. Jorge Alcocer Varela, who directed his specialty thesis on pneumonia infections in patients with Lupus. Subsequently, his doctoral thesis, directed by Stephen R. Cole, a leading American epidemiologist with over 230 publications and editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology, investigated the effect of tuberculosis on HIV patients.

The man of the moment: Magazine cover of López-Gatell
The man of the moment: Magazine cover of López-Gatell

During his training, Hugo López-Gatell was an intern at an IMSS hospital in Ensenada, Baja California; he did clinical practice at a hospital on the northern border; he designed an epidemiological study to find the social factors related to diseases produced by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae in Tabasco; was a resident doctor at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán for three years and became assistant to the general director and chief resident at the same institute; was a research assistant in the Department of Epidemiology at John Hopkins University for three years, and has worked in government positions related to public health since 2008.

In fact, as Deputy Director-General of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health between 2008 and 2012, Lopez-Gatell was a key player in the fight against the H1N1 crisis in Mexico in 2009. He also designed a conceptual, structural and functional reform for the National System of Epidemiological Surveillance (SINAVE), which is now leading the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic that causes COVID-19 disease.

Hugo López-Gatell has also been an associate professor in the graduate program at UNAM and John Hopkins University in Maryland, as well as a professor in the School of Medicine since 2007. He has also directed and participated in numerous technical committees of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ibero-American Program of Science and Technology for Development and the Migrant Clinicians Network, Inc. (of which he is a board member), to give just a few examples.

As a researcher, he has published forty scientific articles in international journals, in addition to having six chapters in medical books and participating as an editorial reviewer and member of editorial committees of multiple scientific journals. Also, in his teaching work, he has directed multiple postgraduate theses.

In recent years, after becoming Deputy Director-General of Epidemiology in 2008, López-Gatell has worked in government positions related to public health. He was director of National Health Surveys at the National Institute of Public Health between 2012 and 2013; director of Innovation in Surveillance and Control of Infectious Diseases at the same institute between 2013 and 2018; and finally, he was promoted to Under Secretary of Prevention and Health Promotion of the Government of Mexico on December 1, 2018, by his former teacher Dr. Jorge Alcocer Varela.

With this considerable background, Dr. Hugo López-Gatell is, without a doubt, an important Mexican academic with proven medical and health sector experience. In any case, this is not the first infectious disease he has fought in Mexico and one could say that his experience is considerable for a man of only 51 years of age. That is why, when a health professional with this background asks us to comply with prevention measures, it would be very unwise not to listen to him. Stay at home: there is a reason the experts are asking you to do so.

Piñata de López-Gatell, the favorite in this pandemic

Hugo López-Gatell's piñata became in the last three months the most requested piece by the jarochos, who in the midst of the problems caused by Covid-19 take the pandemic with humor. Gabriela Callejas Macedo creates the figure of the under-secretary in the family business "La Casa de las Piñatas", which is located on Rafael Cuervo Avenue in the city and port of Veracruz.

Piñata de López-Gatell, the favorite in this pandemic
Piñata de López-Gatell, the favorite in this pandemic

She began to make them since the beginning of the pandemic by the Covid-19, when she saw that in other states of the country was marketed the López-Gatell piñata decided not to stay behind and offer the same product. However, the piñata that she offers in her business located in front of the Villa Rica neighborhood, she boasts it as a more elaborate and attractive piece for customers.

In this case, it is the figure of the undersecretary dressed in his usual gray suit, carrying a stethoscope and a blue mouthpiece on his neck, while in his right hand he holds a smaller piñata with the figure of the coronavirus. Gabriela Callejas Macedo said that four to three days of work are required to make Undersecretary López-Gatell's piñata, so they are sold only upon request.

The materials used are cardboard and paint, which he manipulates in the technique known as mold, which allows him to take on the features and peculiarities of the federal official. The cost of each piece is 750 pesos in the size she makes them, but they can be cheaper or more expensive, depending on the size the client requests.

So far she has sold 22 piñatas with the figure of the federal official, who since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic began to become notorious for taking care of the daily report on the progress of the disease.

"We have sold them, in fact, we almost made them order. We've sold about 22 of them, and now the demand has gone down a little bit, but they're still in fashion, so we're still making them," she said.

In the midst of the health emergency, the piñata allows the jarochos to forget a little about the stress caused by the situation, while allowing their creators to make a profit at a time when the pandemic generated a strong economic crisis due to paralysis in companies and businesses.