Floyd Malveaux Biography
Earned His Ph.D. and M.D., Studied Allergies and Asthma
Scientist, physician, educator
Trained as a microbiologist and immunologist, as well as a medical doctor, Dr. Floyd J. Malveaux's research led him from the mechanisms of bacterial infection to the biological and public health aspects of allergies and asthma. As the incidence of asthma and asthma deaths began to rise in the 1980s, Malveaux recognized that minorities in inner-city communities were disproportionately affected. He established clinics to treat these patients while researching the causes of asthma. As a professor and dean of the Howard University College of Medicine (HUCM) in Washington, D.C., Malveaux educated some one thousand medical students and brought new technology and a new health sciences library to the university.
Earned His Ph.D. and M.D.
Born on January 11, 1940, and raised in southwest Louisiana, Floyd Malveaux was inspired by his mother, a math and science teacher. His father, a laborer, likewise supported his son's aspirations for higher education. Math and science came easily to Floyd Malveaux and he placed first in the Louisiana mathematics competition for minority high school students.
Though he entered Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, as a math major, Malveaux switched to biology in his third year. As a graduate student at Loyola University in New Orleans, he was mentored by Dr. Joseph Cooney. Cooney stimulated Malveaux's interest in microbiology and encouraged him to present his research at national meetings. As a doctoral student at Michigan State University, Malveaux worked with Dr. C. L. San Clemente, studying the pathogenesis of the disease-causing bacterium Staphylococcus aureus.
After earning his Ph.D. from Michigan State in 1968, Malveaux became an assistant professor of microbiology at HUCM. By 1970 he had decided that, in addition to educating medical students, he wanted to add a clinical component to his research. He earned his M.D. at Howard in 1974 while continuing to teach and advise graduate students.
Studied Allergies and Asthma
During his final year of medical school, Malveaux's research interests turned to immunology, specifically allergic reactions of the human immune system and asthma, a chronic inflammation of the airways caused by allergens. Asthma had become the most common chronic childhood disease, particularly among blacks. Malveaux told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) that his goal was to combine his research with the "skills for managing patients with allergies and asthma." This required further training in pediatrics and internal medicine. He spent the next two years training in internal medicine at the Washington Hospital Center and another two years as a postdoctoral fellow in allergy and clinical immunology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1978 Malveaux returned to Howard University as an associate professor of medicine and established a training program in allergy and immunology for pediatricians and internists. In 1986, after joining the Johns Hopkins medical faculty, he founded the Urban Asthma and Allergy Center, a clinical research facility in Baltimore.
In 1989 Malveaux was recruited by HUCM to chair its Department of Microbiology. His multi-faceted research program addressed the mechanisms of asthma inflammation, hereditary factors involved in asthma, and interventions for reducing asthma risk among low socioeconomic groups. Malveaux also uncovered basic information about the control of cell receptors for immunoglobulin E (IgE)—the molecule involved in allergic responses.
Malveaux's work indicated that the causes of childhood asthma included the lack of access to health care, as well as various environmental factors such as tobacco smoke and allergens in older buildings and in tightly-sealed newer buildings with poor ventilation. In 1997 he co-authored a study that implicated exposure to cockroaches in the etiology of asthma. Malveaux and his colleagues demonstrated that inner-city children with asthma often were inappropriately or under-medicated and were more likely to self-medicate without supervision. They found that disease-management counseling for children and their families resulted in fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations. Malveaux's research led to the establishment of HUCM's free treatment program, Community Outreach for Asthma Care.
Recruited as HUCM Dean
Although he had never considered a career in administration, in 1995 Malveaux was recruited as dean of HUCM. His new responsibilities required him to give up his clinical practice. However Malveaux maintained his commitment to research, "his lifeline" as he told CBB, and the combination of research and administration enabled him to remain "intellectually challenged." Malveaux also served as Howard University's interim Vice President for Health Affairs in 1996 and as Vice Provost for Health Affairs from 2000 through 2003.
As dean, Malveaux oversaw construction of Howard's new Health Sciences Library, major improvements at the Howard University Hospital, and significant increases in externally funded research. He established Howard's mini medical school—a forum for presenting new developments in fields such as cloning, diabetes, and asthma to the lay public, including community leaders and policy makers. Malveaux also introduced computer-based telemedicine new technologies to HUCM.
Malveaux remained the principle investigator of the General Clinical Research Center at Howard University Hospital and of the university's RCMI (Research Centers in Minority Institutions) Program that addressed the needs of underserved communities. He also was principle investigator for HUCM's Urban Asthma Care, for the Howard-Hopkins Partnership in Asthma Disparity, and for the Inner City Asthma Consortium.
Established Human Genome Research
Malveaux told CBB: "Genetics will play a very important role in the future of medicine…predicting who is at risk…to determine how to treat individuals." In the spring of 2001 Malveaux oversaw the establishment of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University, the only such research center at a predominately black school. The center focuses on genetic variations and their relationships to the causes, preventions, and treatments of disease among blacks.
In 2003 Malveaux entered into a partnership with First Genetic Trust, Inc. for the development of the Genomic Research in the African Diaspora (GRAD) Biobank—the first large-scale DNA databank of black Americans. At a press briefing reported in the Howard magazine Capstone, Malveaux said: "The GRAD Biobank will provide an infrastructure that will enable Howard University and the research community to conduct urgently needed research on health issues that greatly affect the well-being of people of African descent." Malveaux pointed out to CBB that "African Americans have not been included in clinical trials." He stressed that although the GRAD Biobank will provide important genetic data on individuals of African ancestry, new medical treatments will be based not on race but on the "variability of genetic expression in individuals."
In addition to his contributions to medical science, Malveaux told CBB that among the most rewarding aspects of his career were raising public awareness about asthma disparities in the United States, "exercising leadership for reducing asthma occurrences and deaths," and bringing a community health perspective to HUCM. In 2004 HUCM was awarded more than $1 million by the Macy Foundation to establish a multidisciplinary master's degree program in public health.
A sought-after lecturer, Malveaux has contributed numerous publications to professional journals. His awards include an Outstanding Faculty Research Award from Howard University. He was named one of the top 101 doctors by Black Enterprise magazine in 2001 and a "Black History Maker of Today" by McDonald's Family Restaurants of Greater Washington, D.C. in 2003.
After 11 years as dean of HUCM, Malveaux retired from academia in July of 2005. He moved to the Merck Foundation to head a new program—the Merck Childhood Asthma Network—to establish centers of excellence for asthma research at institutions around the country. Although it meant the end of his personal research, Malveaux told CBB that this new position enabled him to oversee research in his chosen field at "seven sites instead of one site."
(With A. K. Sobotka, et al.) "IgE-Mediated Basophil Phenomena: Quantitation, Control, Inflammatory Interactions," Immunological Reviews, 1978, pp. 171-85.
(With M. L. Rivo) "Outpatient Management of Asthma in Adults," American Family Physician, May 1992, pp. 2105-13.
(With D. Houlihan, et al.) "Characteristics of Asthma Mortality and Morbidity in African-Americans," Journal of Asthma, 1993, pp. 431-37.
(With K. Huss, et al.) "Home Environmental Risk Factors in Urban Minority Asthmatic Children," Annals of Allergy, February 1994, pp. 173-77.
(With D. L. Rosenstreich, et al.) "The Role of Cockroach Allergy and Exposure to Cockroach Allergen in Causing Morbidity Among Inner-City Children with Asthma," New England Journal of Medicine, May 8, 1997, pp. 1356-63.
(With R. Evans, et al.) "A Randomized Clinical Trial to Reduce Asthma Morbidity Among Inner-City Children: Results of the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study," Journal of Pediatrics, September 1999, pp. 332-38.
(With S. K. Huang, et al.) "Evidence for Asthma Susceptibility Genes on Chromosome 11 in an African-American Population," Human Genetics, July 2003, pp. 71-75.
(With S. J. Bartlett, et al.) "Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Adherence to Therapy in Inner-City Children with Asthma," Pediatrics, February 2004, pp. 229-37.
"College of Medicine and First Genetic Trust Form Biobank," Howard University-Capstone Online, www.howard.edu/newsevents/Capstone/2003/June/news2.htm (May 17, 2005).
"Combating Asthma," Online NewsHour, www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/may97/asthma_5-8.html (May 18, 2005).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Dr. Floyd Malveaux on June 17, 2005.