ASTMH Blog

ACGH Inaugural Global Health Careers Webchat

July 10, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The following was submitted by Alexis Boyd, a active member of ACGH who helped coordinate this student-led webinar.  Boyd has a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from The George Washington University and has spent the past 7 years researching filarial parasites. She is currently exploring a new career opportunity as a fellow at the Food and Drug Administration.

ASTMH’s Committee on Global Health (ACGH) is focusing on creating opportunities for students and professionals at any career stage interested in global health to network and explore the various career opportunities in the field. To accomplish this goal, the committee is sponsoring a series of live webchats with global health experts and leaders where individuals can ask career-related questions and seek advice. The first webchat took place in June and featured former ASTMH President Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

For this inaugural webchat, there were 17 participants and lively chat ensued with Dr. Hotez fielding questions on how he became interested in global health, what he considers his greatest accomplishment and how he balances the many demands on his time. Career related questions ranged from knowing what skills are important for global health advocacy to identifying potential roles that engineers can play in solving important global health problems. Dr. Hotez also provided keen insight on the importance of continued mentorship throughout a career and how to identify good mentors. Dr. Hotez encouraged the audience to stay true to their passions and find the strength to weather the crises of confidence that afflict even the most successful individuals. The webchat with Dr. Hotez was not only informative, but also motivational, and was met with highly positive reviews from the participants. The Committee on Global Health is planning on having webchats quarterly with different global health experts.

For more information on these chats or to nominate a speaker, please e-mail me at boyda02@gmail.com. You can also find additional answers from Dr. Hotez at the Sabin Vaccine Institute blog.

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Welcome New Members - May 2014

June 16, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The following individuals joined the Society this May:

Mary Adam
Kijabe Hospital

Adedayo Adedeji

Abayomi Ademola
Amazing Grace Hospital, Ijebu Ode Ogun State

Ritesh Agarwal
Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research

Jason Bailey
University of Maryland Baltimore

Saroj Bapna
Haffkine Institute for training Research and Testing

Amanda Beaudoin
University of Minnesota

Roger Bedimo
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Brianna Beechler
Oregon State University

Roxanne Burrus
Nepmu Five

Elissa Butler
University of Minnesota Medical School

Kelly Callahan
The Carter Center, Trachoma Control Program

Rebecca Chancey
Duke University

Sarah Cusick
University of Minnesota

Roshni Daver
University of Texas Medical School at Houston and MD

Christina DeMatteo

Mike Dunbar
Iowa State University

Luis Escobar
SUNY Upstate Medical University

Dr. Michael Everson
Eisai Inc.

Sarjeet Gill
University of California Riverside

Scott Gordon

Tonya Gray
Mercy Family Clinic Forest Park

Joseph Indiano
Ball Memorial Hospital

Muna Jama
University of Minnesota

Shahid Karim
The University of Southern Mississippi

Leah Kern
UCSD Pediatrics Associates

Steven Kern
University of Utah

Jintao Li
Tropical Medecine Institute, Third Military Medical University

Donna Lopez
LSHTM

Francisco Luquero
Epicentre

Sophia Mangala M.
Protestant University of Congo

Theresa Nguyen
UPMC East

Chinedu Nkole

David Philpott

 

Silvia Portugal
NIAID, NIH

David Pruschki
University of Washington

Scott Royal
University of North Carolina

Marcus Salmen
Hennepin County Medical Center

Ashley Scott
University of Notre Dame

Natalie Spillman

Joselyne Olga Talledo Rodríguez
Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia

Paul Trowbridge

Silvia Vilar Portugal
NIH-NIAID

Karolyn Wanat
University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics

Gabriella Wuyke
Lynn University

Ya Zhou
University of Maryland School of Medicine

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Member Q&A: Lark Coffey, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

June 16, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

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.

This month we speak with Lark Coffey, PhD, Assistant Professor, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. Coffey has been a member of ASTMH for 12 years and is actively involved with the American Committee on Arthropod-Borne Viruses (ACAV.)

1) You’re an active member of the Society, including the subgroup ACAV. With a busy life full of demands, why is this something you make time for?

I believe in the collaborative environment and emphasis on education and training promoted by ASTMH. The Annual Meeting and ACAV activities are a wonderful place to visit with colleagues and to hear about current research. The meeting provides a regular setting to maintain contact with and follow the evolving science of fellow scientists. The symposium talks by ACAV members are a regular source of inspiration. The Annual Meeting fuels my excitement for studying arboviruses.

2) Some of your work concerns host specialization in arboviruses. To that end, what is one of that most interests you in that area of study right now?

Arboviruses that cycle between vertebrate and invertebrate hosts are subjected to unique evolutionary constraints by having to infect two disparate types of hosts. Historically, arbovirus genetics has only focused on understanding the phenotypic role of the consensus (average) viral genome in a mixed population. This approach vastly underrepresents the actual population diversity of RNA viruses, which exist as a swarm of closely related genomes that may express different host-specific phenotypes.

I am interested in better understanding the nature and function of viral genetic diversity in the swarm as it relates to arbovirus host specialization, dual-host cycling, and cross-species transmission. Recent technological advances now enable population sequencing at great depth to allow us to better study virus populations.

3) Also, on the topic of virus evolution, is there a mentor or person who has most influenced your thinking?

My Ph.D. mentor, Dr. Scott Weaver, played a fundamental role teaching me about arbovirus evolution propelling me into a career in the field. He also introduced me to the ASTMH and encouraged my annual attendance at meetings. Through his support, I was able to gain broad experience doing arbovirus ecology and genetics at tropical field sites and in laboratory settings.

4) A question for the non-science audience: why is the work you and your colleagues do important on a national and global scale?

Arboviruses are a scourge on human and veterinary health and we lack tools to prevent infection or treat illnesses most arboviruses cause. Epidemics caused by West Nile virus and the recent expansion of chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere highlight the need to better understand their ecologies, transmission cycles, and emergence. Uncovering the evolutionary dynamics of these pathogens, will allow us to develop novel mechanism to prevent and mitigate infections.

5) Congratulations on your tenure-track position. What guidance or advice helped you get to this point that up-and-coming researchers might find useful?

First, find a niche in a topic that really interests you and focus on generating good science. Second, let fellow scientists know what you are up to – the ASTMH Annual Meeting is an excellent avenue for networking, promoting your research, and finding job opportunities. Third, once you find a job posting, maximize your success by showing the search committee you are a “good fit” in the department and institution. This can be accomplished by identifying institutional partners as future collaborators.

In my own experience, I think the search committee at UC Davis appreciated my willingness to maintain and promote the continued development of the great body of excellent arbovirus research in California conducted previously by Bill Reisen, Aaron Brault, and others.

6) Now for the fun question. 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 love to have been present to witness Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek using handcrafted magnifying glasses as microscopes in the 1600s to study biological fluids. van Leeuwenhoek was not the first to make microscopes, but he used them to discovered bacteria, free-living and parasitic microscopic protists, sperm and blood cells, microscopic nematodes and rotifers. It must have been amazing to realize for the first time that there was minute life-termed “animalcules” by van Leeuwenhoek-inside humans and animals.

 

 

 

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Career Development Opportunities at the Annual Meeting

June 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

Victoria McGovern, PhD, FASTMH, ASTMH Councilor and Associate Program Chair for Media Relations and Special Initiatives, provides the following update:

This year, the Annual Meeting is trying something new: adding more career content and opportunities to talk with senior members about how to build a life in tropical medicine, global health, or research. Though ASTMH has been around since 1903, many of the things we—the individual members— want remain the same as they were back then: we want to improve health; we want to understand the principles underlying threats to health; and because our concerns cross science, medicine, public health, and health delivery, we want to know one another across disciplines. Coming together face to face is still the best way to do this, so the Annual Meeting is one important way that our Society serves us. But the world is just bigger now than it was 101 years ago. Back then, a newcomer quickly came to know everyone, and could hope to hear about opportunities for opening up new work and advancing. One hundred and one years later, it’s gotten harder to get introduced and to learn (beyond working hard and well on problems that matter) how to succeed.

This year, we’re building new things-- just a step beyond what we’ve done in the past-- into the meeting to try to change that:

  • The Young Investigators Awards, competitive awards for work presented just before the start of the annual meeting, recognize one’s early work. This year, as part of the competition day, participants will have lunch with senior members explicitly to talk about where the Young Investigators want their careers to take them.
  • The Trop Stop has been a lounge for trainees. This year, it will host featuring topics like how to build your CV, how to apply for postdoctoral fellowships, and more.
  • The Subgroups provide a good way to get closer to people working in your area of interest. Last year, the Global Health subgroup tried “Speed Dating” to introduce many people to one another in a quality way in a short time. This was a very popular session, so they’re doing it again in 2014! The other subgroups will be trying other approaches, so stay tuned!
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Are antimalarials safe to young children?

May 28, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

This post is courtesy of our partners at the ACT Consortium:

Artemisinin based malaria drugs are viewed as safe, but animal safety studies raised concerns over their potential to cause damage to parts of the brain involved in hearing and balance. A group of scientists reviewed safety studies in humans and found a worrying lack of data from young children, the most vulnerable group. The results were published today in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (or ACTs) are highly effective antimalarials that have saved many lives and are the first-line treatment recommended by the WHO for uncomplicated malaria. Their safety is based on trials where treatment was given only once or twice, in adults and older children.

But in many parts of Africa – where safety is rarely monitored – younger children are at greater risk of getting malaria and may receive ACTs three or more times a year.

[Read more →]

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World Malaria Day Perspectives: Jessica Taaffe, Global Health and Science Consultant

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH President Alan J. Magill, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center and Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Jessica Taaffe (@JessicaTaaffe), PhD, Global Health and Science Consultant

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I was (and still am) drawn to malaria research because of its global impact. Although we don’t have to really worry about it in the United States, it’s responsible for so much disease in many parts of the world, and a huge killer of young children, who are the most susceptible to it.

I did my graduate thesis work on HIV for several years, specifically focusing on immunology in monkey models. There’s a lot of work being done in this area for HIV, but less so for malaria, and I saw a niche for me in malaria research. I knew I wanted to continue working on a disease with huge global impact, and one that I felt that my research efforts and experise could really make a difference and address a gap in knowledge. There’s still so much to learn about what provides immunological protection from malaria infection and disease, or how the immune resonse contributes to the latter, and malaria monkey models are a great way to start exploring these areas.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I think setting priorities in the fight against malaria and balancing both programatic and reserach and development efforts is the biggest challenge. In a funding climate that is becoming limited for both global health and science, choosing which programs or research to fund is become increasingly important, and we must be very careful in these decisions, choosing interventions WE KNOW will work and the most promising technology and research to address problems and challenges in the field. The balance is imperative - I would argue for more money for R&D, but I wouldn’t want to take away from measures like bed net distribution, that are also important tools in our fight against malaria.

Where do you see the most promise?

I see the most long-term promise in investing in R&D for malaria, especially basic science. Both malaria infection and its causative agent are incredibly complex and there is still so much to learn about them. A better understanding of both natural or induced correlates of immunologic protection against malaria will lead to better malaria vaccines, and more research on the parasite itself could lead to novel drugs to treat malaria infection. In the near and long-term future, we will need these biomedical tools as we continue our fight against this global disease.

 

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World Malaria Day Perspectives: Kent Kester, Associate Vice President , Sanofi Pasteur

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Kent Kester, MD, FASTMH, Associate Vice President, Clinical and Translational Sciences, Sanofi Pastuer

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I started working in malaria research coincident with my Infectious Disease fellowship training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Fellows had the great opportunity to pursue research projects at the nearby Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), where tropical disease research was and continues to play a prominent role. At the time, I had the good fortune to work in a department composed of highly motivated people who truly wanted to make a difference in tropical health by way of developing an effective vaccine against falciparum malaria. To me, this embodied much of the "classical" aspects of infectious disease research, focusing on a disease for which a vaccine is not yet available yet which has a huge morbidity and mortality impact in the developing world, coupled with modern scientific approaches to vaccinology. Owing to this alignment, coupled with my later assignment at the WRAIR as a full-time malaria vaccine developer, I was privileged to play a role in the clinical development of the current lead vaccine intended to protect against falciparum malaria, RTS,S—a vaccine that is now the subject of large-scale field trials in Africa. While I’m currently working in the private sector, my focus remains the development of vaccines—products that by definition are focused on the improvement of the broader public health status of populations.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

There are so many needs related to malaria, whether associated with the broad areas of control, elimination, and eradication, or more finely focused on local approaches to disease prevention (e.g., via the use of bednets). In the end, the financial challenges are substantial, something that contributed negatively in the prior malaria eradication campaigns.

Where do you see the most promise?

I’m encouraged by the continued visibility of malaria as a real public health problem associated with many developing countries. Certainly, the advocacy and funding provided by the BMGF has played a major role in keeping malaria in the news. Hopefully, their continuing efforts, joined with those of others (e.g., government agencies, other nonprofit organizations, and industry) will continue to push forward on multiple fronts to effectively deal with this perennial scourge. The work is incredibly important.

 

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World Malaria Day Perspectives: Captain Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Judith E. Epstein, MD, CAPT MC USN, Clinical Director, Malaria Vaccine Development Program at the Naval Medical Research Center

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I first became interested in working on malaria nearly 30 years ago while taking a first year course in parasitology in medical school. I recall being fascinated by the view of malaria parasites under the microscope. The study of infectious diseases that primarily impact the developing world seemed to me like a great entryway into international medicine. I was amazed to learn that this disease, which is not part of our everyday experience in the United States, has such a devastasting impact worldwide. According to the most recent estimates, found on the World Health Organization website, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa with about one child dying every minute from malaria. Meanwhile, malaria continues to pose a significant threat to our warfighters deployed in malaria endemic area. The chance to work on a vaccine which might help to stem the tide of this disease has been the driving force for me. What started out as a simple medical school interest has become a passion.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I think that the biggest challenge lies mobilizing a successful malaria vaccine. As aptly expressed in an editorial in The Lancet back in April 2010 (Volume 375, Issue 9724, Page 1407), "What is still needed is the only tool that has ever truly conquered any infectious disease: an effective and affordable vaccine."

Where do you see the most promise?

I think that the greatest promise lies in the results recently obtained with the testing of the live, attenuated whole parasite vaccine, Sanaria’s PfSPZ Vaccine. Results of a clinical trial that took place at the Vaccine Research Center, NIAID (detailed by Seder et al in Science Sept 20th 341: 1359-65) in collaboration with the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research demonstrated efficacy of 100% against controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) in subjects who received the highest dose of the vaccine. We at NMRC remain closely involved in the testing and development of this vaccine. Such a vaccine, which could prevent both infection and disease, would be optimal for our troops deployed abroad as well as the millions of people living under the daily threat of this disease.

 

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World Malaria Day Perspectives: ASTMH President Alan J. Magill

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Alan J. Magill, MD, FASTMH, ASTMH President

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

Every aspect of malaria, its history, biology, pathophysiology, ecology, and clinical management is endlessly fascinating for me. I became interested in malaria early in life as part of a greater interest in parasitology. Once I understood that malaria is a completely preventable, treatable, and eradicable disease, I could not understand why it caused so much suffering globally. I am committed to end this inequality.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

The biggest biologic challenge in malaria is the emergence of drug and insecticide resistance. Loss of pyrethroids or artemisinin will have a severely negative effect on future efforts to maintain the gains of the past decade. The biggest resource challenge is maintain the significant levels of investment from the major donor countries to the Global Fund and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). This will require political will and commitment at all levels and in all countries.

Where do you see the most promise?

Many African countries have made significant progress in the past decade and have seen what life can be like without children dying from malaria. They don’t want to go back in time. I see great promise in a new generation of African scientists, physicians, political leaders, and community leaders who will lead in the elimination of malaria from Africa. There is also a robust and very promising pipeline of new drug, vaccine, and vector interventions. Many of these new products will come to market in the next 5-10 years. I also sense that many now see malaria as a complex ecosystem of human – parasite – mosquito interactions and that viewing malaria this way opens up many new and innovative approaches to control and eventual eradication of the parasite.

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World Malaria Day Perspectives: Laurence Slutsker, Director for Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria for the CDC Center for Global Health

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH President Alan J. Magill,
 Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, Director for Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria for the CDC Center for Global Health (CGH)

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I started in malaria 27 years ago when I joined CDC. My first trip to Eastern Africa was one I’ll never forget. I walked into a District Hospital ward in western Kenya and was overwhelmed with the site of tiny children, packed 4-5 to a bed, all suffering from malaria. It has been compelling to be part of the effort to address this public health menace, and gratifying to see the progress over the last decade.

While much remains to be done, in many places there has been significant improvement by combining advances in research (ITNs, diagnostics, treatment, prevention in pregnancy) with effective program scale up. Research has been and must continue to be a cornerstone of continued progress. We will not succeed If we rely on the tools and strategies we have now to get to where we need to be in the future.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I don’t think there is one single challenge –we need to keep our eyes on several balls at the same time. Technically our research must find new tools and strategies to deal with parasite resistance to drugs – particularly artemisinin resistance – the spread of which represents a true threat to global health security. Addressing this challenge will require not only new drugs, but research in novel ways to use the drugs we currently have to drive down transmission. Similarly, rising to the challenge of insecticide resistance requires new compounds and new delivery strategies.

Operationally, we need to achieve much greater progress in program scale up in the huge and complex countries with the highest malaria burden. Also key is to explore new and better ways to get the strategic information we need in real time through improved surveillance and response to allow programs to be more efficient and more effective. From a leadership and political perspective, we need to maintain momentum and focus on investing in malaria program and research. There is ample evidence from history to show that when our attention and focus wanes, malaria roars back with a vengeance.

Where do you see the most promise?

In a word – commitment, manifest in many places and at many levels. At the global level, the commitment of partners to develop a budgeted action plan that provides a framework for the contribution and investment of all sectors and partners is critical. At the national level, the commitment of endemic country leadership to a vision of progressive malaria control leading ultimately to elimination is a sea change. It raises the stakes and sets the highest bar possible, but also allows us to think about what was once unthinkable – an end game for malaria. That aspirational goal cannot be achieved without continued commitment to and support for research, balanced with substantial investments in program scale up. There are promising developments in strategies and tools for vector control, drugs, vaccines and their delivery, diagnostics, surveillance and response, and community level engagement approaches. With continued commitment at all these levels, these promises can be realized and implemented to defeat malaria.

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