Our History

In 1980, a young Indian-born pediatrician named Mathuram Santosham arrived on the White Mountain Apache Reservation to address an outbreak of diarrheal disease in babies. Dr. Santosham and his team trained Apache community health workers to administer oral rehydration solution (ORS) to children with serious diarrhea. The rate of diarrheal deaths dropped to zero. They established that infants could eat—and bounce-back faster—after taking ORS. Apaches, through these landmark studies, made medical history.

In partnership with the Apache tribe and Navajo Nation, we introduced other promising vaccines. We evaluated their effectiveness, and published results that would change global practice.

Following the introduction of ORS and vaccines that prevented childhood pneumonia and meningitis, the Apache and Navajo tribes asked Santosham to help them to look beyond infectious disease. Newer, pressing problems were concerning the tribes including suicide, unprepared parenting, adolescent health, and a growing burden of chronic disease. And together, we discovered new solutions

“I have learned a great deal from my Native American friends about resilience, compassion and family values. My biggest ambition is to build capacity among young American Indian people. I want to see the next generation become leaders not only in their community, but also around the world.” – Mathuram Santosham, Director Emeritus, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health 

To learn more about our history, watch this short video.

Read more about our history in:

Well Being: Striving for good health in tribal communities