Member Q&A: Miriam Laufer, MD, AJTMH's new section editor dedicated to perspectives and reviews

Posted 15 June 2016

"The Journal’'s strength remains its broad range of topic areas...(and) as a key source for the latest discoveries for more obscure diseases." Miriam Laufer, MD

Miriam said she first developed an interest in malaria when she was working in Laos to train doctors in pediatrics. The febrile children in the ward were often diagnosed with malaria and as Miriam read and learned more, she became fascinated with the parasite. She later learned that none of those children had malaria infection (the etiology of their fevers was subsequently published in AJTMH, Mayxay et al. 2015), but by then Miriam was hooked. For the research part of her pediatric infectious diseases training, she sought out Past President Christopher V. Plowe, MD, MPH, FASTMHat the University of Maryland, who seemed to be just the type of physician-scientist Miriam hoped to become. She helped him run a study in Malawi examining the interaction between HIV and malaria infection. In 2004, she joined the faculty at the University of Maryland and has been there ever since. She took over the leadership of the Malawi site and serves as the PI for large clinical trials in Malawi examining new strategies to prevent malaria during pregnancy and exploring the role of malaria prophylaxis among adults with HIV infection. She also leads epidemiological studies throughout southern Malawi as part of Malawi’s International Center of Excellence in Malaria Research. Though his research interests have moved to the other spectrum of malaria research and the other side of the world – malaria elimination in Myanmar – Miriam said Dr. Plowe remains a great colleague and source of guidance and support for her and her team of trainees and investigators in Baltimore and Malawi. 

Miriam also serves as the Associate Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Maryland. She works closely with Dr. Plowe, the Founding Director, to support and expand the research that impacts global health throughout the school. Miriam said research training that prepares physicians and scientists to tackle the health problems facing populations in the most resource-limited settings is her passion and the major focus of her new position.

Tell us about your role as perspectives and reviews section editor for AJTMH? 

The Journal strives to be a key resource for tropical diseases researchers and clinicians. The quality of the original science publication is very good, but the Journal leadership realized we could offer more. As the first section editor specifically dedicated to perspectives and reviews, my goals are to give readers access to expert reviews of specific topics of interest in tropical diseases and to establish a forum to share opinions about important and controversial areas of international health research, policy and practice.

What kinds of contributors are you hoping to engage? The top five qualities you are looking for in a perspectives piece?

I am hoping to engage experts in their fields who can identify and communicate key aspects of the area of review or offer a compelling editorial viewpoint. The review areas may be topics about which little is known or very targeted topics in more heavily covered areas. For the perspective pieces, I would like the authors to provide an engaging editorial opinion on a current area of tropical medicine.
The top five qualities are:
  • Creative
  • Current
  • Concise
  • Targetted
  • Engaging
  • Opinionated (for perspectives)
Before your new role, you were a Journal reader. What do you think AJTMH means/brings to the membership and the tropical medicine community?

I have always been impressed by the Journal’s ability to reflect the full range of interests in tropical medicine. With so many journals available now, there is one for almost every single niche. The Journal’s strength remains its broad range of topic areas, including the more common disease such as malaria, dengue and helminths, but also serves as a key source for the latest discoveries for more obscure disease, such as tick-born infections in the U.S. and abroad.

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 am at my heart an infectious disease doctor. I would love to have had a chance to talk to Louis Pasteur and learn how he had the hutzpah to believe and ultimately prove that little bugs that we can’t see cause disease. I might not have used those words….