The Malaria Fighter

New York Times | October 20, 2014

After a knee-to-knee chat with this hamlet's chief in the local malaria clinic as rain hammered the tin roof, Rear Adm. R. Timothy Ziemer reached into his pocket for his usual thank-you gift. The clinic was well run, and there was a big turnout of mothers grateful for the free mosquito nets. Accepting the thick gold-colored coin with President Obama's face on it, the chief looked as thrilled as if he had won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "They're not official," Admiral Ziemer confessed later in an interview. "I buy them in a souvenir shop in the Reagan office building for $4.50 each."

The moment illustrates how this 67-year-old retired Navy flier who is the coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative gets things done: on the ground, with little cash and less fanfare, in faraway African and Asian villages. Although he does nothing to court publicity in status-obsessed Washington, many malaria fighters call him one of the most quietly effective leaders in public health.
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