Claire Panosian (Dunavan), MD, DTM&H
Dear Fellow ASTMH Members,
Greetings from southern California on a beautiful summer afternoon. It’s one of those days that takes me back to my 1950s childhood not far from here. As I noted in a recent global health lecture at UCLA, however, for many children in the 1950s, life was far from charmed. Back then, measles plus smallpox caused as many deaths per year as HIV/AIDS does today — while an equal number of children’s lives were lost every year to simple diarrhea and dehydration.
How far we’ve come, I told my wide-eyed audience — and how far we still have to go.
Which brings me to one of ASTMH’s greatest strengths: its members’ long-term commitment to fighting infectious diseases of the world’s poor — young and old. To each of you in the field, lab, clinic, classroom and boardroom: Bravo!
And now, because “summertime … and the living is easy” is far from true for any of us, I suspect, I’ll jump right into highlights of the last quarter at ASTMH.
The Name Change Debate
A few months ago, several members sent a letter to editor Bill Collins proposing that ASTMH change its name to the “American Society of Tropical Medicine and Global Health.” I responded with some personal reasons for opposing this change; the newsletter also provided readers with an electronic “straw poll” opportunity. Thus far, we have received 21 votes in favor of retaining the current name and 4 votes in favor of a name change.
Needless to say, this represents a tiny sample — and we would like more feedback. If you have not yet registered your views, please complete the brief survey.
Or — before you do — take a look at the pros and cons presented in the Spring newsletter as well as thoughtful comments (see Letters to the Editor) from Past-President Don Burke and long-time member, David Hill, who participated in similar “name change discussions” in the UK.
Mid-Year Council Meeting
In early May, the ASTMH Council, subgroup leaders and ASTMH staff met in Washington, D.C. for a jam-packed mid-year Council meeting. The agenda included a secretary-treasurer’s report presented by George Hillyer, a management report presented by Sally Finney, finances and audit, subgroup reports, fellowship updates, and discussions around our newly-revised mission statement, the Journal, annual scientific program, education agenda, public relations, and Web site redesign.
One key decision unanimously approved by Council was the advancement — as of September 1, 2008 — of Sally Finney, our current executive director, to 100 percent time with ASTMH. We welcome Sally to her expanded role and wish her much success in helping our Society prosper and grow.
As previously reported, 2008 also marks the final year of George Hillyer’s second and concluding term as ASTMH secretary-treasurer. We are now actively seeking candidates for his successor to begin in January 2009. Potential applicants, please read the following job description and feel free to contact me with further questions.
The secretary-treasurer (ST) is appointed by the Council to serve a three-year term. He or she works with the elected officers and councilors and with the Society’s professional management group — assisting in budget preparation , providing institutional memory, communicating with members, reviewing the composition of committees, serving as parliamentarian at Council meetings and conducting the members’ annual business meeting. In the next term, the ST will also play a key role in membership activities focused on retention and recruitment.
The secretary treasurer is an ex officio member of the ASTMH Council and the ASTMH Executive Committee and is required to attend all in-person and teleconference meetings of both groups.
All current professional members of ASTMH are encouraged to apply for this position. Applicants will be selected based on their willingness and ability to perform duties and creatively contribute to the Society’s various programs; their academic credentials and breadth of experience in tropical medicine; recommendations from past or current Council members; and demonstrated ability to complete tasks as a volunteer working on a team. Preference will be given to applicants who have previously served in a significant volunteer capacity with ASTMH. Compensation includes reimbursement of expenses for attending the mid-year Council meeting and a possible stipend. Deadline for submission: Sept 15, 2008. Please submit a curriculum vitae and statement of interest to George Hillyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASTMH on Capitol Hill
Immediately following the mid-year council meeting, Jim Hughes, Alan Magill, Tom Wellems, Sally Finney and I — accompanied by representatives of Drinker, Biddle and Reath (ASTMH’s government affairs group) — visited the Washington, D.C. offices of Senators Durbin (D-IL), Isakson (R-GA), Chambliss (R-GA), Mikluski (D-MD), Cardin (D-MD), Boxer (D-CA) and Feinstein (D-CA); and Representatives Lewis (D-GA), Waxman (D-CA) and Van Hollen (D-MD). There we discussed FY 2009 malaria spending and answered other questions about tropical and emerging infectious diseases.
Having joined these Capitol Hill rounds on two previous occasions, I am happy to report that the visits are clearly bearing fruit for the short- and long-term. At this point, not only do Congressional staffers appear to have more knowledge and interest in yearly malaria appropriations, they are also getting to know the unique expertise and mission of our Society. Kent Campbell deserves kudos for his continued guidance of this Capitol Hill initiative, which will soon encompass strategic issues beyond malaria.
(Note: since our last newsletter, ASTMH also submitted a grant to support an expanded policy and advocacy program. If the grant is funded, the Society will organize 100 visits to Capitol Hill by ASTMH members over the next three years. In addition, we will mount regional policy meetings and aquire new Web site tools. Bottom line: in coming years, we anticipate many opportunities for ASTMH members to participate in policy and advocacy. Stay tuned!)
Back to the present. A final event this spring was ASTMH’s oral testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations chaired by Senator Daniel Inouye. In his June remarks, Past President Mike Levine addressed FY 2009 funding for malaria vaccine and drug development research by the U.S. military. Read his full testimony.
New Orleans Here we Come!
According to Program Chair Ed Ryan and Judy De Acetis, the call for abstracts and symposia for the 57th annual ASTMH conference (Dec 7-11, Sheraton New Orleans) has yielded a record outpouring of high-quality submissions. A good omen for attendance!
Here’s a quick head's up on our confirmed keynote speakers:
- Opening Plenary: Sir Richard Feachem, KBE, FREng, DSc(Med), PhD (past-Director, UN Global Fund, current Professor of global health, UCSF) speaking on “The Genius of Boldness: Thinking Big in Global Health”
- Craig Lecture: Professor Robert Swanepoel, Special Pathogens Unit, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Sandringham, South Africa, speaking on “The Hunt for Reservoir Hosts of Marburg and Ebola Viruses.”
- Commemorative Fund Lecture: Carlos Morel, MD, DSc (past-Director, Tropical Diseases Research, WHO, current director, Center for Technological Development in Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Brazil
Other highlights include a pre-meeting course on malaria eradication co-chaired by David Brandling-Bennett (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Kent Campbell (PATH Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa), and Bernard Nahlen (President’s Malaria Initiative, USAID) and special presentations by ASTMH colleagues in New Orleans.
The heart of ASTMH is its members. Although we are more than 3,000-strong, attracting new members to the ASTMH community — especially young people — is a vital priority, and one which President-Elect Tom Wellems and Executive Director Sally Finney intend to emphasize in the coming year.
At the same time, a recent e-mail from Kevin Baird was a pleasant reminder to honor (in Kevin’s words) our “members extraordinaire” — those who have been ASTMH members for four or five decades or more.
Members extraordinaire, how many of you will be in New Orleans? It would be great to hear a few words from each of you at this year’s opening student reception, describing how you first became an ASTMH member.
A Final Thought — “Reach out and Touch Someone”
Not long ago, I wrote a letter to all first-time attendees of last year’s meeting and was rewarded with — among other responses — a delightful exchange with Betzana Zambrano of Sanofi Pasteur Research and Development, Montivideo. Betzana is now our fifth member based in Uruguay. Betzana, I look forward to meeting you in New Orleans!
Another friendship blossomed when Dr. Jong-Yil Chai of Seoul National University wrote to me this year. Dr. Chai is the president of the Organizing Committee of ICTM 2008, which will be held in Jeju Island, Sept 29-Oct 3, 2008. Although I am unable to attend this meeting (Past-President Don Krogstad and others will represent ASTMH), I was happy to learn that Dr. Chai and I will cross paths at the Asian Pacific Congress for Parasitic Zoonoses in Taiwan. Dr. Chai came to our ASTMH meetings in 2006 and 2007 and also plans to join us in New Orleans.
All of us know someone — in our own institution or half-way around the world — who would be a terrific addition to the ASTMH community. Please consider an early New Year’s resolution to encourage them to join.
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