Entries for month: May 2012
by Daniel Bausch, MD, MPH&TM, Tulane University/NAMRU-6, Lima, Peru
This week I went to Capitol Hill with a group of fellow ASTMH researchers to advocate for U.S. funding for research in tropical medicine and global health. I was impressed how easily the Congressmen and staffers--regardless of political affiliation--captured the message and asked intelligent questions in return.
We discussed the importance of NIH, CDC and DoD funding of tropical medicine research, emphasizing three points:
- Understanding tropical diseases and helping control them overseas is not only the right thing to do, it is in the interest of America's national health and security.
- Research is a major economic driver, providing high-quality jobs across the country.
- Failure to fund this research places the U.S. at risk to lose its historical scientific edge.
What I learned was that we researchers need to be the "squeaky wheel." The overall response from Congress was, "Yes, we support research, but there is only so much money to go around. Something has got to go." That "something" can't be research. While it's probably not realistic to expect an increase this year, we have to keep telling our elected officials about the value of tropical medicine research to the U.S. It is our only hope to stave off cuts and ultimately to save lives, which is why we do this work in the first place.
The CDC recently introduced the "Our Global Voices" blog, which encourages visitors to interact with CDC's global health leaders and staff who are working to improve health and save lives around the world. The blog features conversations on several important global health topics, such as immunization, vaccines and more. Visit "Our Global Voices."
As an 18-year member of the Society, what keeps you coming back?
ASTMH is an important professional society. It is the best place to come for education, professional development and interdisciplinary collaboration in the complex and diverse areas of tropical medicine.
In the Navy, you have a built-in network of scientific colleagues. How does membership in ASTMH complement this network?
Navy Medicine Research is fortunate to have outstanding clinicians and researchers, but we also know that there are leaders in tropical medicine and young scientists with novel ideas outside our system. ASTMH provides us this rich and available community of colleagues and collaborators from academia, NGOs and other government organizations--relationships that add so much to our collective success that we schedule Navy Medicine Research meetings with the Annual Meeting to include our collaborators.
The Navy's R&D efforts are located around the world. How does ASTMH fit in?
We currently have three laboratories--NAMRU-2, -3 and -6--all developed in partnership with host nations. We are conducting collaborative projects in dozens of countries throughout the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. We are particularly pleased that we are able to provide opportunities for young researchers from the U.S. and countries where we work to further their careers. ASTMH has been a key partner in these efforts. We routinely point to the Annual Meeting as the keystone for our staff and collaborators to highlight their work, meet collaborators and establish professional connections. ASTMH connections have also led to other educational/career opportunities for our staff.
While you were at Naval Medical Research Unit-6 in Lima, Peru, the Society joined with NAMRU-6 to showcase research presented at the ASTMH Annual Meeting. Why did this work?
There is a very strong research community in Peru that regularly presents an array of high quality research results and posters at the Annual Meetings, however, many involved in those projects--and many more who can learn from the research presented--were unable to travel to the meeting. So we approached the Society in 2010 with the idea of presenting the Peru studies--in Spanish--at a local meeting. The Society leadership and the local research community embraced this suggestion, and Dr. Alan Magill, representing the Society, opened the "ASTMH in Peru" conference in 2011. This interchange afforded time for direct conversations with investigators and students, and a number of recommendations were offered for continued work. The “pride of ownership” was evident and inspiring for all. There is significant enthusiasm for a third annual Peru meeting.
Many don't know that ASTMH has a strong clinical constituency. How have you married research and clinical into your career?
Ongoing research is critical to the practice of medicine. The Navy has given me an opportunity to participate in clinical research studies in Thailand, Egypt and Peru, enabling me to work with fantastic local physicians from whom I continue to learn about patient care. Thanks to the Navy’s commitment to teaching tropical medicine, I've been in the role of student and instructor in several classes and in the Gorgas Course. I have practiced at great hospitals, such as Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where I have cared for people planning to travel abroad or returning from trips with interesting mementos such as fevers and rashes.
Campuses are overflowing with young people looking to global health as a career. What is your advice to them and how can ASTMH help them build their career?
When I was in those same shoes as young people today, I was encouraged to join ASTMH by Dr. Barney Cline, a past president. He told me that membership would help me meet colleagues and find opportunities for work. He was correct then, and his advice is true today. With so many opportunities--programs, clinical care and research--teasing out the options can be daunting. This is where ASTMH serves a key role by bringing people from multiple disciplines with a shared interest in global health/tropical medicine together and promoting continued growth in the field.
On April 25, ASTMH, in partnership with Malaria No More, PATH and other malaria and other R&D organizations, commemorated World Malaria Day on Capitol Hill in an event featuring researchers from 20 universities, private companies and research institutions. Each researcher speaking at the event, "U.S. Advancements in Science and Technology in Malaria: A Showcase of Domestic Research & Development to Save Lives and Keep Americans Safe," highlighted the economic impact of their grant's malaria research dollars. Honorary event hots included the co-chairs of the Senate Working Group on Malaria and Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases.
About half of the presenters were ASTMH members, including Mary Galinski, PhD, Emory University, and Brian Grimberg, PhD, Case Western Research University, both of whom were invited by ASTMH to summarize their research and convey the additional benefits brought by these federal research dollars. The audience also heard that the military recognizes malaria as a persistent threat to U.S. forces and that WRAIR is collaborating with many of these academic institutions. All the presentations illustrated real-time leading scientific and technological advancements in malaria that could save millions of lives around the world, protect U.S. military service members and demonstrate job creation in the states, as well as the economic benefits federal funding brings to local and state economies.
Members of Congress in attendance included former Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Republican co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, who pointed to the work by ASTMH member Jon Vennerstrom, PhD, University of Nebraska, and commented on the resources coming into his state as a result of this research. Fortenberry announced that Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) as the new co-chair of the Caucus, stepping in for the late Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ), founder and former co-chair of the Caucus. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), co-chairs of the Senate Working Group on Malaria, and Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), spoke about the importance for malaria funding. Congressman McDermott highlighted the impressive malaria R&D efforts being carried out in his Washington State district by Seattle Biomed, founded by ASTMH Council member Ken Stuart, PhD. Congresman McDermott also referenced the work of ASTMH member Malcolm Gardner, PhD, at Seattle Biomed, citing the economic impact, jobs created and global leadership role of the state as a result of Seattle Biomed's collective work.
USAID Administrator Raj Shah delivered remarks about the impressive scientific achievements and the development of new tools the can be used in the fight against malaria. He described how the President's Malaria Initiative is delivering significant results in the fight against malaria with the help of past achievements in malaria R&D. WRAIR Deputy Commander Pete Weina echoed the point made earlier about the critical role in these technologies that WRAIR and its partners have played. Concluding the session, the CDC's Patrick Kachur, MD, MPH, and the NIH's Lee Hall, PhD, described the roles their respective agencies play in malaria R&D.
Former ASTMH President Claire Panosian, MD, DTM&H, commemorates World Malaria Day with an article in the Los Angeles Daily News stating that without sustained commitment to combatting malaria, more drug-resistant strains of the disease will spread and counterfeit anti-malarials will continue to enter the market. The Daily News reaches more than 440,000 readers daily. Read the article.