A recent news release announced that Jose Romero, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), who also serves as the Arkansas Secretary of Health and director of the Arkansas Department of Health, recently received the Ohtli Award, the highest award given by the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs to persons residing outside of Mexico.

“Dr. Romero was chosen for this award because of his relentless commitment to ensuring equal and free access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Rodolfo Quilantan Arenas from the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock, who presented the award to Romero. “His service to the community has been invaluable.”

The name of the award comes from the Nahuatl word meaning “path,” alluding to the idea of opening a path for others. The Ohtli Award recognizes individuals who have aided, empowered, or positively affected the lives of Mexican nationals in the United States and other countries.

Romero also is board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases. He is the immediate past chairman of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is providing guidance nationally on the use of COVID-19 vaccine. He continues to be a non-voting member of the ACIP’s COVID-19 Vaccines Work Group.  He is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ Infectious Diseases Policy Committee.

He previously served as a chief medical officer at the Department of Health and was appointed as the interim Secretary of Health by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in July 2020. He was director of the Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s from 2008-2020.