Why UCR Staffer Jeff Girod is Working to Prevent Malaria in Africa

UCR staffer Jeff Girod (left) with Rep. Judy Chu; Chris Helfrich, director of Nothing But Nets, United Nations Foundation; and Peter Yeo, vice president for public policy and advocacy, United Nations Foundation, after a luncheon on Capitol Hill at the Nothing But Nets Champion Summit held on Feb. 21-23.

By Jeff Girod

Zika. Malaria. Dengue. Mosquito bites kill millions of people every year, according to the World Health Organization.

Those numbers can be daunting. They can be overwhelming. They can also be a little numbing.

So let’s simplify it. Here’s another number:

One. One man. My father. He also died from a mosquito-borne illness. He’s the reason I want to share our story with you today.

My father’s name was Erwin Ernest Girod. That’s a mouthful, which is why most people called him Ernie.

This Girod family photo was taken in India in 1977.

Jeff (bottom right) with his family in India, 1977.

Ernie was a man of appetites. He loved to laugh. He loved to sing. He could eat Mexican food by the plate load. He was a man of strong faith. And he did a very convincing impression of Kermit the Frog.

Ernie was also a physician. He was a brilliant doctor. And when I was just 3 years old, my family made the decision to move to northern India as medical missionaries. Ernie worked as a doctor in towns and villages. He helped run a hospital in a hill station called Landour-Mussoorie, and he founded the first intensive care unit in Ludhiana.

The plan was for our family to stay in India longterm. But just two years into our mission, my father was bitten by a mosquito. Ernie contracted a very serious case of Dengue Fever and my family rushed home to the United States.

My father spent many weeks in the hospital, but he didn’t die. In fact, over the next 25 years Ernie would live his life in and out of hospitals, and intensive care units. He became unable to walk. He was unable to maintain consistent employment. He became a ghost at the end of our hallway.

Ernie developed an autoimmune disease that systematically attacked almost every major organ, his eyes, his ears, his circulatory system, his muscles, his joints and eventually it spread to his brain and killed him.

At the time of his death, my father weighed less than 120 pounds.

My father was a strong man. He was a tender man. I remember how he always told me how much he loved me, and that he was proud of me. As a father myself now with two small boys, I understand what my father was really doing. He was saying goodbye. Because he didn’t know how much time he had left.

Staffer Jeff Girod with his sons Jackson (left) and Matt.

Staffer Jeff Girod with his sons Jackson (left) and Matt.

Disease is crippling: It scars and destroys everyone it touches. No matter how successful or educated I become, I know it can all be taken away in an instant, and from something as small as a mosquito.

After years of mourning my father, I have tried to find a way to honor him.

Nothing But Nets is a United Nations campaign that saves lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Every $10 donation buys an insecticide-treated mosquito net that reduces the spread of malaria by 90 percent. Since 2006, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $56 million and delivered more than 9 million bednets to African families in need.

What a difference a mosquito net can make in a person’s life. What a difference it might have made for my dad.

My father dedicated his life to helping others. So I challenge you to go even further: What else can you do to help? Maybe it’s a post on Facebook or Twitter in support of Nothing But Nets. Maybe it’s a fundraiser. Or maybe you can email your friends, family and even your local politicians and urge them to pledge support.

All of it helps. And it helps in ways you can’t imagine.

As part of the Nothing But Nets 2016 Champion Summit, I’m part of a team representing California in Washington D.C. At the conference, we’ve met with the offices of senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, policy makers who are joining the fight against malaria. We’re also rubbing elbows with other Nothing but Nets supporters such as soccer star Abby Wambach.  Yesterday, I had the honor of introducing Rep. Judy Chu as a speaker. The congresswoman represents my hometown of Pasadena. But more importantly, she has become a staunch advocate for the fight against malaria in our nation’s capital. Rep. Chu even posted her own video to express her support, which has made a huge impact for our cause.

Jeff Girod with other Nothing But Nets representatives from California at Senator Feinstein's office on Capitol Hill with Feinstein staffer Tyler Long. Girod says, "In all, my group met with seven offices on Capitol Hill to advocate for Nothing But Nets, including Feinstein, Boxer and local representatives Mark Takano, Pete Aguilar and Paul Cook." Our campaign met with a total of more than 70 representatives and Senators on Tuesday.

Jeff Girod with other Nothing But Nets representatives from California at Sen. Feinstein’s office on Capitol Hill with Feinstein staffer Tyler Long. Girod says, “In all, my group met with seven offices on Capitol Hill to advocate for Nothing But Nets, including Feinstein, Boxer and local representatives Mark Takano, Pete Aguilar and Paul Cook. Our campaign met with a total of more than 70 representatives and senators on Tuesday.”

And to think it all started six months ago with a 10-minute conversation with Congresswoman Chu in her Pasadena office. I shared with her about my dad and the importance of Nothing But Nets. At the time, it seemed so small. I had no idea it would lead us both to Washington, D.C.

This is my story. But you have a story, too. Tell it to whoever will listen. Share your passion and others will become passionate. Always ask: What else can I do to help? It can mean the difference between life and death.

Jeff Girod is a senior visual content manager at UCR. If you’d like to learn more about the fight against malaria, how to donate and how to show your support, go to www.nothingbutnets.net.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-2645
E-mail: lille.bose@ucr.edu

Related Links

Archived under: Health, Inside UCR,

Top of Page