Q&A: Rev. Gary Henderson, Executive Director, United Methodist Church Global Health Initiative

May 15, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

World Malaria Day is always a time when many partners come together to raise awareness about the global fight against this killer disease. This year, in honor of World Malaria Day, the United Methodist Church made a $9.6 million donation to Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- the single largest contribution made by a faith organization to the Geneva-based institution.

To learn more about UMC's work with malaria, ASTMH spoke with Reverend Gary R. Henderson, the Executive Director of the Church's Global Health Initiative. Henderson is a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, the Gammon Seminary.  Henderson also oversees the Church's Imagine No More Malaria initiative.

1) Please describe your background and what personally motivates you to improve global health.

As a United Methodist and as a clergy person, I take seriously the words of Jesus that invite followers to “heal the sick.” I am motivated everyday by the awareness that the global health ministry to which I am called; is literally a lifesaving opportunity. I am aware that from the place of blessing that we are expected to be a blessing. In my denominational role, I have the unique opportunity to educate, advocate, build awareness and raise funds so that others might have abundant life.

2) How did the United Methodist Church get involved in the global fight against malaria?

We have had a presence in Africa for more than 160 years and so we are not a stranger to the reality of malaria. We are a founding member of Nothing But Nets through the United Nations Foundation and this involvement sparked a renewed interest in malaria.

The United Methodist Church caught the interest of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because we have people on the ground in hard to reach places in Africa. The Gates Foundation actually provided the seed money for the formation of Imagine No Malaria, our campaign to raise $75 million dollars targeted toward the reduction of death and suffering from this preventable disease. To date, more than $66 million dollars has been raised in cash and pledges.

3) How does the church work with the broader global health community?

We are willing to collaborate and partner with those who share our interest in the fostering of a healthy and whole world. We are a major faith-based financial donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. To date, we have donated more than $18 million to the Global Fund. We also partner with a very wide international community in the fight against malaria; key would be our involvement with the Alliance for Malaria Prevention. Because we have a network of more than 300 hospital, clinics and rural outpost across Africa our reach is broad and comprehensive.


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Member Q&A: ASTMH Assistant Scientific Program Chair Stephanie Yanow, PhD

April 13, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

This month, we interview the Society's new Assistant Scientific Program Chair Stephanie Yanow, PhD, Program Leader, Research and Development, Alberta Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, and Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta. Yanow's research is primarily focused on the development and application of molecular diagnostics for the detection of  malaria  in  different  public  health  settings.  She is also involved with efforts to expand point-of-care disagnostics for malaria and has worked with colleagues around the world on trials.

1) Congratulations again on your selection as the Assistant Scientific Program Chair. This was a very competitive position. What made you decide to seek out the role and what do you hope to bring to this newly created position?

I have really enjoyed working with the Society as a judge for the YIA over the last 3 years and I saw this position as an opportunity to become more involved. I appreciate how the Society is very much global in scope and its membership spans a broad spectrum of people committed to improving global health. The interactions I have at the annual meeting make me feel connected to the malaria community even though I live in a country with no malaria and with only a handful of groups working on this disease. Now I have a chance to be part of the planning process and I really look forward to this experience. I hope that I can bring a different perspective as well as an appreciation of what young scientists are looking for in the meeting. When I first started working on malaria, my postdoc supervisor told me this was the one meeting to go to each year. I want others to see it that way too.

2) What is the Annual Meeting like for you now, compared to the first time you attended?

I first attended this meeting as a postdoc in 2004. I had recently changed research fields and just started working on malaria. I remember feeling very overwhelmed and lost amidst all the research in tropical medicine, of which I knew nothing about. At the same time, I was also amazed by the international feel of the meeting. I remember seeing participants from West Africa in their gorgeous traditional dresses and others in military uniform, and this made me realize that we are trying to solve truly global problems. Now I feel that I am part of that scientific community and I take pride in that. Every year I look forward to the meeting to see familiar faces, catch up with colleagues and learn about the latest exciting research in tropical medicine.

3) As someone early in their career, what can the Society do – if money was no object - to help students and trainees with career development?

I think the Society can play an important role in giving young scientists from developing countries the opportunity to present their work in an international forum. This experience can shape their careers by introducing them to other scientists in their field and giving them exposure to the broader context of the disease they are studying. If money was no object then the Society could provide more travel awards to these young scientists to participate in the meeting.

4) You’ve been actively involved in the Young Investigator Award competition. What are some of the best aspect of being involved with this aspect of the Society?

It’s always a rewarding experience to meet these young scientists who are very motivated and passionate about their work. For many, this is their first time presenting in front of strangers and they are a bundle of nerves; but once they start talking about the science, you can see the excitement on their faces and hear it in their voices. The challenge is always in selecting the winners.

Last year we had a particularly exciting competition with a visit from Bill Gates. The judges only found out moments before the competition started and once the students knew, the place was buzzing. I think it was a wonderful gesture for him to come to the student talks and to join them for lunch. The students certainly appreciated it and I’m sure they would love if the plenary speaker at each meeting could interact with them personally in this way.

5) There’s something quite unique on your CV: you teach a graduate course on scientific writing. What are some basic ways scientists can improve their written communication?

I think there is a tendency to use complicated language in talking about science. Perhaps it makes it sound more impressive but in fact you can lose your audience in jargon. We try to teach our students to present their work clearly and respect their audience through their choice of language. If it’s for a lay audience then they need to present in a way that their grandmother could understand. There are also some basic tips on structure and grammar that help. My strongest suggestion, though, is to read your work out loud. If you struggle to get it off your tongue then probably your reader will not be able to understand it either.

6) Now for our final question – we ask it of everyone. You get the opportunity to go back in time. You can either have a conversation with any scientist who has ever lived OR observe a moment of scientific history. What would you choose and why?

I would choose to meet Gregor Mendel. After I graduated from university with a degree in genetics, I visited his monastery in Brno in the Czech Republic as a kind of pilgrimage. I would love to spend an afternoon with him in his garden amongst the peas and learn firsthand how he discovered the laws of inheritance.


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Remembering: Marilyn Snyder Bartlett, PhD

April 02, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The Society honors the memory of Marilyn Bartlett, an Emeritus member who passed away on March 25. Here is an an excerpt from her obiturary:

Marilyn was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on 10/19/28 to Mildred and Ivan Snyder. She is survived by husband, James D. Bartlett Sr., her five children, James D. Bartlett Jr. (Michele); Elizabeth B. Foland; Thomas M. Bartlett (Rosie); Matthew Clark Bartlett (Cindy); and Amy L. Cooper (Rick), nine grandchildren, James D. Bartlett III; Elizabeth Wertz (Jared); Crosby Foland (Aliese); Matthew Clayton Bartlett; Melissa Bartlett; Caroline Bartlett; Steven Bartlett; Joseph Gottlieb; Jennifer Gottlieb, and three great grandchildren, Kaleb Foland, Isaiah Foland, and Joshua Foland. She is preceded in death by her grandson, Jonathon Gottlieb and sister, Betty Lee Miller.

After graduating from Shortridge High School and Purdue University, she received her Master’s Degree from Indiana University followed by becoming Professor Emeritus at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Marilyn was a Fulbright Research Scholar and a world leader in the scientific community. Some of her accomplishments include: Sagamore of the Wabash; National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards; Member National Institutes of Health-Planning Panels; “Outstanding Contribution to Clinical Microbiology Award”; Foundation Lecturer American Society for Microbiology; President, South Central Association for Clinical Microbiology; Medical Mycological Society of Americas, International Society for Human and Animal Mycoses, American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Immune Compromised Host Society, and Sigma Xi. Marilyn’s interests and contributions were extensive and involved the Indianapolis Museum of Art, St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild, Eiteljorg Museum, the Children’s Museum, IUPUI University Library, Indianapolis Sailing Club, Antiquarian Society and Maxinkuckee Yacht Club in Culver.


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Member Q&A: Alejandro Castellanos-Gonzalez, PhD, Assistant Professor, UTMB

March 16, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

At ASTMH in Peru, Sandy Olkowski -- a PhD candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an active trainee in the ASTMH Committee on Global Health -- connected with Alejandro Castellanos-Gonzalez, PhD, a new memer of the Society who has attended the Annual Meeting for most of his career. Castellanos-Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Internal Medicine, Division Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The following Q&A is based on Olkowski's conversation with Castellanos-Gonzalez in Lima.

1. You have participated in many ASTMH Annual Meetings – starting from when you were a student. What made you first want to participate in the meeting and how has it affected your career over the years?

I’ll put in this way, if you like soccer then what you want is to attend to the World Cup, and if you are an international student working in infectious diseases then what you want is to go to ASTMH. Why? Basically for its excellent reputation.

When I was student at the National University of Mexico, I had a lot of curiosity about ASTMH meetings because I knew about its reputation and because I knew I could have a unique opportunity there to meet outstanding people in the field of infectious diseases. The ASTMH meetings have had a huge impact on my career, since I first presented posters as student, then I had my first oral presentation as a post-doc, and during the last meeting in New Orleans I had the opportunity to co-chair my first scientific session now as faculty. And who knows, maybe one day I'll give my first plenary session at ASTMH.

2. You were an international student when you first presented research at an ASTMH Annual Meeting. Thinking back on those days, what advice would you give international students who are just getting introduced to the Society?

I remember my first international meeting. Before I traveled, my lab mates told me that I should not be disappointed if no one showed up at my poster. They recommended that I stay in front of my poster for half an hour and then to do some tourism. I decided to stay and present my poster, but they were right - no one approached my poster during the first hour. Then that changed. I remember this guy that came to my poster as the first person and said that he had been in Mexico when he was student, so we had an excellent conversation. He was very kind and gave me a lot of recommendations and at the end we said we should be in contact.

I returned to Mexico very motivated and finished my PhD. The researcher who visited my poster – Dr. Clinton White, Jr. – is currently the head of the division of infectious diseases at UTMB, and 15 years later he continues giving me advice. Only now I’m an Assistant Professor at UTMB and he is my boss! So my advice for students is to stay in front of your poster and interact with as many people as you can because you always will learn something new. And most importantly, don’t feel afraid to speak with people even if your English is not perfect because what is important is to communicate your ideas.

3. ASTMH values active participation of students and trainees. How can the Society expand on its efforts to support students and trainees?

ASTMH already gives a lot of value to their students and trainees, so it is difficult to suggest something when things are well done. My only suggestions are to continue doing what you are doing and also improve the interaction with students by incorporating new technologies like social media. I think that social media can be used to share the experiences of people working in the infectious disease field in different parts of the world. I think that would be very motivating for students because they could see (in real time) the amazing things that ASTMH members are doing to improve health of people, and that could inspire them to develop novel ideas in the near future. But as I said, I think ASTMH is doing a great job.

4. Broadly communicating our research is becoming increasingly important for scientists. How would you explain to a non-scientist the importance of your work on point-of-care diagnostics for neglected parasitic diseases?

My mother is 78 years old and she always asks me about my research. I try to be very patient and highlight the important things without giving technical details. So every time that I speak with non-scientist audiences I try to do the same thing. Also I give easy examples. For instance, when I explain that "a point of care diagnostic" is something like a pregnancy test but applied to infectious diseases. Then people instantly understand what I'm doing.

5. You recently attended ASTMH in Peru. What were some of the highlights?

It was an amazing experience. I was impressed by all the field work that is being conducted in Peru. Speaking with students and researchers was very important for my research because I made a lot of connections and decided to collaborate on several projects there. So far, most of my work has been done in the lab so now I’m very excited because thanks to this trip for the first time I will have the opportunity to bring my research to the field. The fact that this research could have a real impact on the health of the population makes me very happy.


ASTMH members are the best and the brightest in their field. Our member interviews highlight our diverse and growing membership. To read other member profiles, click here.


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Member Q&A: Christine Petersen, DVM, PhD, Director, Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases

February 16, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

This month, we spoke with Christine Petersen, DVM, PhD, Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and an Associate Professor at University of Iowa, College of Public Health. An active member of the American Committee of Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology (ACMCIP), Petersen teaches joint veterinary and graduate coursework and conducts outreach related to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of zoonotic diseases within companion animal and human populations.

1. We thank you for being a member of the Society for more than 10 years. What are some of the benefits that make you want to renew your membership each year?

Being a member of ASTMH connects me to both the remarkable history of Tropical Medicine efforts pioneered by past and present members. These efforts provide a lofty vision of what we could accomplish in the next 50 years. Being a member and attending the annual conference provides a context and setting for international collaborations and partnerships, as well as allowing me to see many longtime scientific friends.

2. As director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Iowa, you oversee "One Health." What do you see as the emerging challenges and what role should ASTMH play in addressing them?

I am fairly certain given the bredth of the "One Health" concept, no one person can "oversee" its efforts. That said, I do serve as an active proponent in building and strenghtening bridges across tropical public health, medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental/ecological efforts. There are always challenges to these interdisciplinary efforts, as keeping collaborations going across groups who by nature of their training see the world in very different ways requires effort and energy- things that in our funding strapped lives are often rather stretched. One of the benefits of ASTMH is the "big tent," so I am often "preaching to the choir" to bring together folks from many different scientific backgrounds to grapple with our complex global health problems.

ASTMH's annual conference has in the past had sessions that highlight "One Health"- but they are often shunted to a back corner of the conference. With blessing from the One Health Commission, I believe that many of the other sessions that feature zoonotic diseases, vector ecology, animal models of human diseases, and the many other ways that "One Health " can be defined, could also be highlighted in a grouping much like ACMCIP or other groups.

3. Your work focuses on the prevention of leishmaniasis. For policymakers and others who might not have an extensive scientific background, what is important for them to know about this research since they will likely never encounter the disease?

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that is transmitted between rodent and canine reservoirs to people through a sand fly, or through contact with infected blood. It is the cause of an approximate 40,000 human deaths a year, more than rabies virus, but it much less recognized.

Leishmaniasis is present within the borders of the U.S.; thousands of dogs imported from endemic countries (Italy, France, Brazil, Spain, Iran, Afghanistan, etc) live with and die from this disease. These dogs can pass the disease on through blood-sharing between moms and puppies. Leishmaniasis is a textbook example of why the United States needs some sort of regulatory health group that protects the health of companion animals not guarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Centers for Disease Control. Each year there are millions of animals brought into this country for the pet trade with very little regulation and no health screening- and these become the pets that our children cuddle in their beds and we share our homes and lives with. This "regulatory gap" leads to thousands of infections with diseases including Salmonella, monkey pox, novel helminths or worms and at risk of diseases like leptospirosis, leishmaniasis, toxoplasmosis and others which can be fatal.

4. The Society is a "big tent" where people with a wide range of skills and training come together and share knowledge. How can ASTMH nurture of expand interests like yours?

Veterinarians by training have many more hours of didactic training on infectious diseases, including tropical diseases, than most MDs. In the U.S. and many other countries, veterinarians serve as the front line to recognize emergence of novel foreign diseases within national borders.

Despite this, traditional stakeholders often overlook inclusion of veterinarians in their decision-making groups. Some foundations, including Burroughs Welcome Fund, have gone out of their way to interact with budding veterinary scientists, which is very well received within the veterinary community. This inclusion has not particularly spilled over to inclusion of veterinary trainees within ASTMH membership or inclusion within infectious disease training programs- which are still very targeted to MD ID docs.

I think olive branches that include recognition of the need to understand infection within and spillover from (veterinary) reservoir hosts and bringing veterinarians not only into the "big tent" but inviting them to be displayed in the center ring would go a long way to having participation within the society.

5. Thinking back to when you were early in your academic training, what do you wish you would have known or done differently as it relates to your professional trajectory?

During my PhD training, I was very concerned that a decision to remain within academe would mandate a rather staid, molecularly focused career focus. I am very glad that despite those fears, I accepted a tenure-track academic position, but have found myself still actively participating in sample collection and field work all over the U.S. and the world. I am very lucky to have active collaborative projects that require I travel to wonderful places like Barcelona, Brazil and the lovely backwoods of Missouri to learn firsthand the challenges of Leishmania infection and control. Through these interactions, I am part of the decision-making body (Leishvet) that puts forth control and prevention recommendations for canine leishmaniasis.

Finding an institution that supports a broad definition of "scholarship", and wonderful colleagues who are wiling to listen to my crazy ideas, has made the career I feared I could not have in academia possible.

6. Last question, so it’s a fun one. You get the opportunity to go back in time. You can either have a conversation with any scientist who has ever lived OR observe a moment of scientific history. What would you choose and why?

I would like to hear the discussions by Edward Jenner and his colleagues with the milk-maids and vaccine trial participants when the first small pox vaccination and challenge studies were performed. Their ability to appreciate that cross-protection between these two viral infections which occur in different species could bring relief to small pox suffering required open-mindedness to a point that some would have claimed as insanity, yet they inoculated several dozen people, then importantly performed small pox infection challenge to show that protection was acquired. Brave exciting vaccinology, immunology and One Health work that provided the eventual global elimination of smallpox.


ASTMH members are the best and the brightest in their field. Our member interviews highlight our diverse and growing membership. To read other member profiles, click here.


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Member Q&A: Duane J. Gubler, MS, ScD, Professor and Founding Director, Signature Research Program on Emerging Infectious Diseases

January 13, 2015 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

For our first member interview of 2015, we chat with Duane J. Gubler, MS, ScD, Professor and Founding Director, Signature Research Program on Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore. Gubler served as the ASTMH President 15 years ago and has contributed to the Society in a number of ways over the year.

An active member of ACME, Gubler’s speciality area of work is vector-borne infectious diseases; he has worked on dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever for 43 years. He has more than 350 publications on every aspect of dengue and other vector-borne diseases and has just published the second edition of the leading resource book on dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever. Professor Gubler was instrumental in developing the Paediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative, and served as the founding Chair of the Board of Councillors of that organisation from its inception in 2002 to 2009. In addition, he is the founder of the CDC Dengue Branch laboratory in Puerto Rico.

1. You served as President of the Society in 2000. What are some of the most significant ways that ASTMH has changed over the last 15 years?

There have been many positive changes. Some of the more important changes include making ASTMH a much more global society, attracting members from countries where tropical diseases are truly important public health problems; expanding opportunities for diverse disciplines of science to have a home in ASTMH, thus expanding the professional expertise and importance of the society; increasing training opportunities for students and young scientists, thus encouraging them to become members; Improving the Annual Meeting and scientific program, providing a forum for nearly every aspect of public health and tropical medicine; stayed abreast of new technology, ensuring the incorporation of cutting edge science in the annual program.

These and many other changes have made ASTMH the leading tropical medicine society in the world. As an active member of ASTMH for nearly 50 years, I am proud to have been a part of this growth and these changes .

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2014 Annual Meeting Travel Awards

October 15, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The Society, with generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, offers these awards to qualified students, early career investigators and scientists who otherwise might not be able to attend the meeting.

Selected recipients enhance the overall scientific quality and learning potential and present abstracts at the meeting. ASTMH began these “Travel Awards” in 1991 and over time with the addition of Gates Foundation funding, 500+ promising early career investigators have attended and participated in the Annual Meeting.

The Society is grateful to Travel Award Committee Chair Nirbhay Kumar, PhD, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the rest of the committee for their outstanding work this year.

The following individuals were selected this year:

Susan Adakun, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda
Abstract 1860

Ben Andagalu, KEMRI Walter Reed Project, Kenya
Abstract 306

Elhadji Ba, Institut de Recherche Pour le Developpment, Senegal
Abstract 1906

Alvaro Baeza Garcia, Yale University School of Medicine, United States
Abstract 387

Elissa Butler, University of Minnesota Medical School, United States
Abstract 78

Suwanna Chaorattanakawee, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Thailand
Abstract 299

Herbert de Matos Guedes, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Abstract 1205

Kebede Deribe, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, UK, Ethiopia
Abstract 1690

Bismarck Dinko, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana
Abstract 1865

Alex Eapen, National Institute of Malaria Research (ICMR), India
Abstract 367

Kimberly Fornace, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
Abstract 1109

Fernanda Fortes de Araujo, Centro de Pesquisas Rene
Rachou - FIOCRUZ, Brazil
Abstract 1090

Michael Hawkes, University of Alberta, Canada
Abstract 1859

Danika Hill, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Australia
Abstract 385

Taweewun Hunsawong, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Thailand
Abstract 168

Rubona Joshua, RTI International, Tanzania
Abstract 1321

Elijah Juma, Vestergaard Frandsen (EA) Ltd, Kenya
Abstract 116

Jean Paul Katsuva, Medecins d’Afrique, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Abstract 355

Stella Kepha, Makerere University/KEMRI, Kenya
Abstract 508

Suresh Maddur Ganesan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
Abstract 1831

Placide Mbala, Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Abstract 464

Evaristus Mbanefo, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University, Japan
Abstract 33

Seleshi Mekonnen, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia
Abstract 316

Dominic Mosha, Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania
Abstract 1921

Randy Mungwira, Blantyre Malaria Project, Malawi
Abstract 717

Sophie Namasopo, Jinja Regional Referral Hospital Ministry of Health, Uganda
Abstract 49

Jeremiah Ngondi, RTI International, Tanzania
Abstract 368

Augusto Nhabomba, CISM, Mozambique
Abstract 383

Rasaq Olaosebikan, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Nigeria
Abstract 238

Frankline Onchiri, Kenya Medical Research Institute and University of Washington, United States
Abstract 1848

Lynette Oyier, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya
Abstract 989

Repon Paul, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Abstract 425

Patricia Pavlinac, University of Washington, United States
Abstract 1880

Chandary Rang, Malaria Consortium, Cambodia
Abstract 337

Stephen Rulisa, Central University Hospital of Kigali, Rwanda
Abstract 358

Raul Saraiva, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States
Abstract 1886

Mwiche Siame, Macha Research Trust, Zambia
Abstract 313

Maggy Sikulu, Ifakara Health Institute, United Republic of Tanzania
Abstract 121

Toolika Singh, Banaras Hindu University, India
Abstract 691

Holger Unger, University of Melbourne, Australia
Abstract 53

Rajesh Valanparambil, McGill University, Canada
Abstract 512

Braulio Valencia, Institute of Tropical Medicine Alexander von Humboldt, Peru
Abstract 1095

Tom Wingfield, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru
Abstract 1278


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Ebola Hearing Video and Transcripts.

September 22, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

There were two hearings on Capitol Hill last week to address the challenges posed by Ebola in West Africa. Here we provide links to direct you to the videos of those hearings along with submitted remarks from witnesses.

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations' held a hearing titled, "Global Efforts to Fight Ebola."

The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations jointly heald a hearing titled, "Ebola in West Africa: A Global Challenge and Public Health Threat." ASTMH did its own summary here.


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Senate Hearing Explores How to Stop Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

September 18, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The following report was written by Sumana Vardhan, ASTMH Communications Intern.

In a hearing on Tuesday, a panel of expert witnesses drew attention to the pressing need for a central authority to coordinate United States’ widespread efforts to thwart Ebola in West Africa.

At a joint hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, specialists also testified that it would be beneficial for the U.S. to eventually create a version of the CDC in countries abroad so that proximate, trained professionals can respond immediately in case of future epidemics. The 3-hour long hearing broadly addressed the challenges of controlling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

ASTMH Member Dr. Beth Bell, Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the NIH, and Robin Robinson, Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) testified about obstacles health workers are facing. The challenges run the gamut from isolation to cultural norms to how the outbreak is overburdening already fragile African health care systems.

Rising economic instability and the possible spread of the outbreak beyond West Africa led the hearing to explore the U.S. government’s response, which includes $100 million already pledged, an additional $75 million from USAID, and CDC’s proposal to Congress for another $88 million. Witnesses emphasized the essential need for funding not only in the midst of an emergency. Budget uncertainty and sequestration have affected research by creating disincentives for scientists to become involved, and may have hindered progress towards an Ebola vaccine, witnesses also noted.

A second pair of witnesses, Dr. Kent Brantly, former Medical Director of the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola Care Center in Monrovia and Ebola survivor, and Ishmeal Charles, Program Manager of Healey International Relief Foundation in Sierra Leone, gave genuine testimonies of living and serving in areas where fear of Ebola affects every facet of life. Both emphasized the need for greater response from all over the globe, both for funding and trained personnel. Quoting Dr. Joanne Liu of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Brantley said, “Comparing Ebola to a fire, this is not the time to run away. This is the time to put on our protective gear and run into the burning building."

A video of the hearing and written testimonies are available here.

Photo: Dr. Kent Brantly (L) testifies with Healey International Relief Foundation Sierra Leone Program Manager Ishmael Alfred Charles (R) during the hearing. (JIM WATSON AFP/Getty Images)


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Q&A: Timothy Brewer, MD, MPH, Chair of CUGH

August 17, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

This month, the Society had the opportunity to check in with Timothy Brewer, MD, MPH, chair of the board at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH). Brewer is the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary and Cross-Campus Affairs at UCLA. CUGH is a valued partner of ASTMH. Our organizations share several members and leaders, including Michele Barry, MD, FASTMH, CUGH board member and past ASTMH president.

1) CUGH is a relatively young organization. For those who might not be familiar with the goals and mission, how would you describe it?

A university is a community of scholars, and since the founding of the University of Bologna in 1088 individuals have been coming together in communities to share and to advance knowledge. The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), founded in 2008, is a community of universities. Our mission is to bring together faculty, students and administrators from diverse institutional settings so they may share and advance knowledge in global health training and practice. Capacity building, both within and between universities as well as with the greater community, is at the core of CUGH’s mission.

We achieve our mission through such activities as identifying and promulgating best practices for global health training, advocating for global health funding and standards, and establishing networking opportunities for persons and institutions interested in global health to come together and learn from each other.

2) One of the common threads between the Society and CUGH is the focus on training the future global health workforce. Students are eager to get international experience and program coordinators are keen to ensure project sites get the maximum benefit from young volunteers. What guidelines does CUGH recommend to ensure international experiences are valuable for both trainees and hosts?

In establishing international experiences, one needs to consider the needs and goals of everyone involved, including the sending institution, the student and the host (which may be an individual, an institution, an organization or a community).

While often framed as service programs, most international electives involving health science students are at their core probably educational experiences. Understanding this primary purpose, having the necessary infrastructure in place at all sites, and making sure that potential risks are reasonable given the likely educational benefits are key steps in establishing suitable international student electives.

Another contributor to successful international programs is having well-defined sender, student and host responsibilities, for example determining educational objectives, activities and appropriate supervision in advance of a student’s arrival. Proper pre-departure training is valuable for faculty and students interested in participating in international experiences, particularly those persons going overseas for the first time. Setting realistic expectations all around also is important. Though anecdotal, electives based on institutional relationships with long-term commitments to each other seem to be preferable to those based on individual relationships, but the central component for fruitful experiences is likely the presence of dedicated faculty at the sending and receiving organizations each of whom benefits from the relationship. Common sense also helps. An elective appropriate for a student who has previously been a Peace Corps volunteer in the country, speaks the language and knows the cultural norms may or may not be appropriate for another student who has never traveled internationally.

3) ASTMH and CUGH share other similarities, including a focus on education and research. What are some of the ways that our organizations can collaborate more in the future?

Around for just over 110 years, the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has tremendous organizational experience facilitating international health research and educational partnerships. In particular, ASTMH members have long been at the forefront of health sciences research in low-resource settings, both basic and applied. This know-how is a terrific foundation on which to think about the emerging field of global health.

Though much younger, CUGH has strong roots in global health educational design and development, even more so since the merger between CUGH and the Global Health Educational Consortium (GHEC) in 2011. In addition, by focusing on universities, CUGH draws in non-health disciplines that are increasingly recognized as essential for addressing health inequity issues globally. The two sets of organizational assets are very complementary. Across the spectrum of activities both organizations currently are involved in, opportunities for collaboration abound. Our members have a mutual stake in ensuring adequate federal funding for global health research and programs.

There are likely ways we could advocate more effectively together. Assisting in the development and promotion of educational guidelines and materials, establishing programmatic and ethical recommendations for international student elective partnerships and facilitating networking opportunities across the Societies also would be of substantial benefits to all our members. There are no doubt many other examples as well.

4) In global health, there is sometimes a gap between researchers and those involved with the delivery of clinical care. How can we integrate better?

Linking research to practice is a complex challenge, touching on such diverse issues as research question formation and study design, the setting of funding agency priorities, general public awareness of and comfort with science, knowledge translation and cultural change. Like most complex problems, breaking this issue into component pieces capable of being addressed with testable hypotheses should be helpful. Successfully solving this challenge will require social scientists, policy experts, humanists, political scientists, advocacy experts and others besides the more traditional health science researchers. In addition, we need to be communicating with each other, our colleagues in other fields, the general public and decision-makers better than has sometimes occurred previously. Scientists should be engaging clinicians and communities; educators need to be more creative about improving general science literacy.

While much work remains, there has been significant progress in the almost 30 years I have been involved in research and clinical care here and abroad.

5) Some readers might wonder if their universities are members of CUGH or if they should join. What unique value does CUGH provide for universities?

Interested individuals may check the CUGH web site to see if their university is a member. Regarding value, in the short span of 5 years, CUGH has gone from an informal gathering of 24 program directors to over 120 institutional members. CUGH membership offers almost unparalleled networking opportunities; the annual conference alone now attracts more than 1,400 participants from almost 60 countries.

We also continue to scale-up programs. One new offering is our mentorship program, where directors at the early stages of global health program development are partnered with more experienced program director mentors. Assistance may range from informal phone calls to site visits depending on the mentee’s needs.

Another unique area for CUGH is supporting university administrative capacity to undertake international global health activities. Through regional workshops created by our Enabling Systems Working Group, administrators learn best practices regarding the logistical aspects of undertaking internationally-based programs such as risk management, hiring personnel and contracting office space, and meeting government reporting requirements. The Educational Committee is harmonizing global health core competencies across the health sciences disciplines with the aim of expanding their work to non-health science disciplines as well. A trainee advisory group was recently created, and we look forward to working with trainees to establish programs particularly suited for their needs.

CUGH is a dynamic, growing organization; I would strongly encourage any university-based global health program with questions about membership benefits to call the CUGH Secretariat and discuss how membership might help their individual program.


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