Retired Chief of the Entomology Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Wirtz has spent a distinguished career in researching and developing solutions to mitigate the impact of insect-transmitted diseases, especially by mosquitoes, on the world’s population.
After graduating with his doctorate in Entomology from Kansas State University in 1976, he began his military career at the Letterman Army Institute of Research at the Presidio of San Francisco, CA. He assisted in the development and testing of arthropod repellents for five years. He was then assigned to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Washington, DC, serving as the Entomology Assistant Chief and co-investigator for projects focusing on Rapid Diagnostics, Arthropod Repellents, Vector Suppression, Vector-Parasite-Host Biology, Malaria Vaccine Development and Chemical Defense. He then went to work for the Department of Defense as a civilian but maintained his military service as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He retired from the reserves as a Colonel in 2008.
In 1997, he accepted the position of Chief, Entomology Branch, Division Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA. During his career with CDC, he directed activities to reduce the threat of arthropod-borne diseases to humans, with a focus on malaria, lymphatic filariasis and Chagas disease. He also supervised work on insecticide resistance, analysis of insecticides and anti-malaria drugs, and evaluation and implementation of long-lasting insecticide treated bed net (LLIN) and indoor residual spray (IRS) programs. His work spanned the globe, coordinating technical assistance and oversight for vector control in 19 African, four Asian and seven Latin American countries in support of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and Amazon Malaria Initiative programs. Today, more than 100 million people have been protected by LLINs and IRS under these programs.
His commitment to vector control touched many countries and worldwide organizations. He supervised the Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Repository and three World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers. He also coordinated public health entomology among the CDC, U.S. Agency for International Development, Departments of Defense and Agriculture, the Carter Center, the WHO and other organizations.
His knowledge of vector control transitioned to positions as an adjunct professor at five universities and on several national and international committees and professional societies. He coordinated a training program for active-duty military entomologists and served as a CDC representative to the DOD Armed Forces Pest Management Board. His in-depth knowledge on diagnostic tests in entomological research took him to 25 countries on 70 trips. An accomplished author and co-author, Dr. Wirtz’s work has appeared in more than 275 publications, including nine book chapters on understanding and combatting worldwide health issues related to parasites.
He retired from the CDC in 2015, but continues to work with the agency as a Guest Researcher and a private consultant. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, sailing, cooking and fly-fishing.