Chloe Vasquez ʼ24

By Dennis Krolevich ʼ26

Chloe Vasquez ʼ24 (Denton, Texas) has been awarded with a 2024 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Fellowship recipients are graduating seniors nominated by one of forty-one partner institutions and will receive a $40,000 stipend, student loan assistance, and health care for a one-year project outside the US. 

Vasquez has a uniquely personal connection to her project, “Snakebite and Medicine Across the Tropics.” In 2020, she received an alarming phone call from her mother that she had been bitten by a snake on her trip to Costa Rica. She then visited her mother, who was hospitalized for an entire month with frequent surgeries. 

After the incident, Vasquez learned more about snakebite treatment across the globe, realizing how overlooked the issue is. 

“It kills up to 138,000 people per year, and another 400,000 are permanently disabled. This is a really big issue—and the root problem is not necessarily a scientific one,” Vasquez said. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of snakebite victims are concentrated in poor rural communities, where challenging terrain and limited health care affects people’s ability to properly respond to a snakebite. 

As a political science and economics double major, Vasquez is taking a social-science approach to a problem that seems like a health-science issue, but is actually a combination of geographical, political, and economic factors. As she travels to India, Thailand, Cameroon, and Brazil, her goal is to learn how communities are fighting to overcome snakebite as a public health issue—including small initiatives like community rescue teams and educational programming, as well as more structural issues such as antivenom regulation and overwhelmed rural clinics.  

“I think the experience will give me an idea of what works and what doesn’t,” Vasquez said. “I’m going to a lot of places where things are going very well in terms of snakebite treatment, and I think that there are a lot of lessons people can learn from each other.”

In her future career, Vasquez wants to work with the WHO and their ongoing efforts to address snake bites and other neglected tropical diseases. 

“I want to have a global response to snakebite that transcends borders, and I think that the Watson Fellowship is the first step toward that.” 

In 1961, Jeannette K. Watson established the Watson Foundation in honor of her late husband, Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM. According to the Foundation’s website, the program’s goal is to provide opportunities for graduating college students to “explore with thoroughness a particular interest, test their aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective, and, concomitantly, develop a more informed sense of international concern.”

March 29 2024

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