Our Hopes for 2021

Posted 29 December 2020

We asked our Board of Directors what they hope the new year brings.
Here's what they said.


Julie Jacobson, MD, President
  “My hopes for 2021 are that we take the challenge of 2020 to reflect on renewal and recreating a stronger, more resilient planet with systems built using the creativity and knowledge across sectors and cultures to more equitably support our collective health and well-being.”

Dan Bausch, MD, MPH&TM, FASTMH, President-Elect 

  “The best thing about 2021 is that 2020 will be over! I am optimistic that, after a difficult winter, with the combination of increasing public health measures (e.g., masks, distancing, etc.) and COVID-19 vaccination, we’ll start to see some normalization of life in the spring and summer. When that occurs, the importance of other major global health and social justice challenges will re-emerge. At the 2020 ASTMH Annual Meeting, Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said ‘We did not ask for the COVID-19 crisis to converge with the climate, biodiversity and inequality crises, but all have converged in 2020. We have no other option but to make the solutions converge.’ As painful as it is, the pandemic has given us a chance to reset and rethink. We can’t waste the opportunity to make the ‘new normal’ a ‘better normal.’”

Joel G. Breman, MD, DTPH, FIDSA, FASTMH, Past President

  “My hope, nay dream, is that future pandemics are identified and stifled early. This will be done with adherence to the ‘5 Ps’:
  1. Preparation – Having a high index of suspicion.
  2. Performance – Making an accurate clinical and laboratory diagnosis, and intervening promptly.
  3. Partnerships – Forming alliances based on trust, transparency, and shared goals.
  4. Prediction and Prevention – Using modern surveillance and IT tools to locate outbreaks early and stifle their course.
  5. Practice – By having tabletop and field exercises.”

Christine Petersen, DVM, PhD, FASTMH, Scientific Program Chair
  “My hopes are that 2021 will be a year to come back together. As someone who lives in a more red/purple state (Iowa), the occasions when I would gather with extended family, kids’ teammates and families, and others who aren’t in my same think space have been dramatically limited during the pandemic.  I look forward to seeing communities be able to share meals, thoughts and experiences again to start stitching our society back into the lovely tapestry we know it to be.”

Philip Rosenthal, MD, FASTMH, Editor-in-Chief, AJTMH
  “My hope is that 2021 will not be 2020! I foresee gradual improvement in the dreadful status of COVID-19, driven by effective vaccines and improved treatment strategies. However, it is vital that advances benefitting developed countries are also rapidly available for all developing countries. Further, I foresee legacies of the pandemic in fractured responses to many other tropical medicine challenges. It is vital that programs to manage, control, and eventually eliminate HIV infection, TB, malaria, and a host of additional tropical medicine problems get back on track, with renewed enthusiasm and funding after the disruption caused by the pandemic.”

Hanna Ehrlich, PhD (Candidate), Board Member
  “This has been such a landmark year for global public health. I’m hoping, of course, for a successful and equitable rollout of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, that my family and friends remain safe (and that I can see them again soon), and that America re-joins the WHO. But I also hope this is a turning point for our work. We have collectively experienced a case study on the ways in which infectious diseases intersect with politics, inequalities, and human and non-human ecologies. This is an opportunity for our members to become stronger advocates of science, but also to move our science, if and when possible, toward the promotion of social and structural determinants of health.”

David H. Hamer, MD, FASTMH, Board member
  “There is a light at the end of the long, dark COVID-19 tunnel. I anticipate that 2021 will bring gradual scale-up of vaccine production and distribution, although I am concerned about equity issues in terms of vaccine reaching my friends and collaborators in low-income countries. If all goes well, the world will begin to gradually re-open with our research projects returning to full activities, travel resuming and in-person meetings starting to happen again. We should also see a new era in U.S. health and science politics with a well-chosen Biden cabinet that will use science to drive their policies and which will have an incredibly important focus on climate change and the development and implementation of policies that will serve to protect rather than destroy the environment.”
A. Desiree LaBeaud, MD, MS,
Board Member

  “In 2020 we were just trying to survive the pandemic and make sure our teams were safe, our research could persevere, and we could manage this new state of constant uncertainty. Well, thankfully, we are still here, doing research on pathogens we know are important and focusing our efforts on empowering worldwide communities to make healthier decisions. The U.S. has been and remains deeply divided and this pandemic has not moved us any closer to seeing the ‘other’ without fear. I am hoping that in 2021 and in the years to come we can all start to tell our stories and really listen to each other at depths that had not been possible in the past. As author/activist Bell Hooks said, ‘Honesty and openness is always the foundation of insightful dialogue.’ And dialogue is the foundation for trust and partnership. We need more partnerships in the world – now more than ever.”

Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH,
Board member
  “If 2020 made everyone into epidemiologists, I hope that 2021 will turn us all into public health believers and advocates. We will see the fruits of the health systems labor in improving COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, a plan will emerge for rapidly vaccinating high priority populations and we will, I hope, have a broad portfolio of vaccines to prevent COVID. This unprecedented level of collaborations, between countries, private companies, philanthropies and international organizations, will prepare us to fight the global infectious disease challenges that continue to plague us and position us to respond swiftly and effectively to future threats." 

Myaing Myaing Nyunt, MD, PhD, MPH, Board member
  "We spent a lot of time building mutual understanding, respect and trust with local populations of different host countries in our global health work, specifically targeting the next-generation scientists, hoping to establish new ideas and pave a better direction of public health practices. We were more or less successful. What we collectively experienced in 2020 at home in the U.S.A. has shaken the core of my being – how fragile our seemingly strong and stable democratic principles and practices are, and how critical trust is in our ability to integrate science in everyday lives of the American public. I recognized that nothing should be taken as granted, and felt that our experience in the global health work may be relevant locally in the U.S. I plan to contribute what I can in 2021 in restoring and building public trust in science and research, using my personal and professional experiences."

Jetsumon Sattabongkot Prachumsri, PhD, FASTMH, Board Member
  “I hope that all vaccines for COVID-19 are successful and can be distributed globally before midyear of 2021.  I hope that all countries find the best practice to limit the transmission of COVID-19 so we can safely travel and meet our colleagues, friends and family members overseas.  I hope that we all have learnt well from the experience of facing this pandemic and have the way or tools to prevent any new disease pandemic in the near future.  I hope to see more sessions on new tools, new platforms, innovation on health policies, etc., to deal with any future pandemic in the ASTMH meeting 2021.  I do hope that we can have a face-to-face ASTMH meeting in 2021!!!”

Jonathan K. Stiles, PhD, FASTMH, Board Member
  “For 2021, I am looking forward to seeing a significant amelioration of the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued development of new drug targets, vaccine candidates and preventive strategies against emerging infectious diseases. I also expect a concerted effort by the global health research and advocacy community to work toward eliminating anti-Black racism, increasing diversity of the workforce, reducing health disparities and decolonization research in low- and low-middle income (LMIC) nations. I am also hopeful that there will be a significant increase in representation of underrepresented minorities in tropical medicine research as well as in the leadership of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). It will not be easy, but if these goals could be achieved, biomedical workforce capacity-strengthening and implementation of viable disease control/elimination strategies will be accelerated, not only internationally but nationally.  There is no doubt that unforeseen global uncertainties, national and international challenges could curtail these possibilities. Whatever the case might be, we should courageously keep moving forward. As Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently stated, ‘If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.’” 

Katherine Taylor, PhD,
Board Member

  "Never did anyone imagine when we were formulating our hopes for 2020 what a year it would be! As I reviewed what I wrote a year ago, my head was spinning. My hopes for 2021 are mainly focused on repairing and rebuilding what we lost in 2020, both globally and nationally, including: healthcare systems; reinforcing and expanding health provider training to compensate for our losses as well as build resilience in our systems; an equitable and just distribution of healthcare, including COVID therapeutics and vaccines; and that the U.S. will rejoin the international global health community to control COVID and prepare for future pandemics. Finally, I hope for the mending of all those who have lost loved ones in the last year or are struggling financially and those who are forced by war and other violent circumstances to find safe haven.” 


Patricia F. Walker, MD, DTM&H, FASTMH, Board Advisor
  “My hopes for 2021 are many and varied. I hope for widespread and equitable distribution of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines worldwide. I hope that we speak more about compassion: compassion for each other, and for the planet. By doing so, perhaps it will help us focus more on a shared vision and shared goals for the planet. Focusing on what divides us only serves to inflame nationalism, separate us from other fellow human beings, and keeps us from doing what is right. In my particular area of expertise, I hope for much needed changes in U.S. policy toward refugees and migrants. As we rejoin the WHO, and support the UN, we must also revisit U.S. policy toward refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. International human rights laws exist; the U.S. and other countries should commit to following them. I hope for more concerted worldwide efforts toward combating climate change, which impacts us all so greatly.  I hope for more joy and more laughter in our everyday lives, and with each other. And I hope to see you all in person at ASTMH 2021!"

Karen A. Goraleski,
  "My hope for 2021 is that the awakening so many of us had to the deeply entrenched racist thinking and practices that are part of our everyday world will be the path to transformation. For ASTMH, this means a commitment to an unabashed look at the research community’s role in perpetuating these wrongs. With this candid and painful look back, only then we can be informed and stand tall with all the voices and communities that we have pledged to serve since our beginnings in 1903."