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While working as a medical missionary in West Africa for nearly 20 years, Thomas (Tom) D. Thacher developed a research interest in nutritional rickets — a disease causing painful bone deformities in children. Dr. Thacher's research demonstrated that rickets in African children was primarily due to calcium deficiency rather than vitamin D deficiency and that calcium treatment could effectively reverse the disease symptoms. Since joining Mayo Clinic's family medicine staff in 2007, Dr. Thacher has continued his international health research related to vitamin D, calcium and rickets.
The public health impact of Dr. Thacher's work will help lead to the eradication of rickets — a completely preventable disease and cause of global childhood disability. Ensuring adequate vitamin D status has the potential to affect multiple health outcomes. Vitamin D supplementation of breast-feeding mothers can improve the vitamin D status of their infants and has greater acceptance than infant supplementation. Dr. Thacher's work will determine if vitamin D levels that are too high or too low are related to the risk of mortality, cancer, cardiovascular events and bone fracture throughout the life span.
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