Who is Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez? The face of the government 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.

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.

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