Tropical diseases, like Chagas, Schistosomiasis or Leishmania are mostly a problem of the world’s poorest. For those people, the cost of diagnostics and treatment of these diseases usually exceeds their budget by a 100-fold or more. Therefore, in my opinion, the prevention and even the eradication of the diseases through a government supported vaccination campaign is a much better approach.
Last February I met Dr. Hotez and Dr. Bottazzi of the Baylor College of Medicine on a seminar at the University of Houston. Both Dr. Hotez and Dr. Bottazzi are much respected researchers in the field of vaccine development for neglected tropical diseases. Based on my interest in tropical diseases and my expertise in studying molecular interactions, Dr. Bottazzi recently offered me a position as a research director in the Center for Vaccine Development, which is associated with the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, organization made up of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. I am involved in the vaccine formulation and the vaccine delivery program. For me, this is a once in a life time opportunity to work in such in a highly competent team. The projects contain great challenges, but it is clear that the results will have a crucial impact on the health and quality of the life of millions of people on earth.
In order to accept my new position as a research director in the Center for Vaccine Development, I had to request a visa transfer from the Fulbright program to my host institution. First of all it is important to know that only in special cases will transfers from Fulbright sponsorship be considered. Do not assume that you automatically get the transfer when you apply for it. In all cases, CIES is governed by the policies of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Department of State, the Fulbright agency in your home country and the policies of your home government. These policies and procedures must be followed in order to transfer your sponsorship to a host university or research institution.
What is a good reason to ask for a transfer? As far as I know, the only valid reason to ask for a transfer is when you can prove that the USA will benefit from your extended stay ( you have unique profile that fits a need in the USA), and your home institution and home country agree to give you the opportunity to extend your training. Luckily, the Belgian government is usually very cooperative in the transfer request, and in my case, all entities involved believed my new position was significant enough to extend my stay.
If you believe that you meet the requirements for a transfer, you need to submit the following documents to CIES about 6 weeks prior to the end date of your current program:
- A letter from you formally requesting a transfer and specifying the exact length of the transfer, with starting and ending dates. You will need to explain specifically why the transfer is needed.
- A letter from your faculty associate supporting your request, which includes the same starting and ending dates listed in your letter.
- Confirmation from your home institution that you have been given leave for the period requested.
- Confirmation of funding. Please provide either a letter from a funding source, specifying the amount of support or a bank statement, if you are planning to use personal funds. The Department of State recommends that you have at least $2,000 per month for the period requested.
- Written agreement to obtain health and accident insurance for any accompanying dependents (please use the attached document for this). For visa transfers, you will need to obtain insurance for yourself, as well.
- A letter from the university or institution that will sponsor you stating its intention to issue a DS-2019 form.
If your request meets the requirements and your documentation is complete, CIES will submit your request to the Department of State and inform you of its decision. If you obtain a transfer, remember that the 2-year home rule still applies after your J1 VISA ends!
Written by 2011-2012 Belgian Scholar Jeroen Pollet