Anna Uehara, MSc, PhD (Candidate)

Posted 11 September 2018

2019 Board Member Representing Students, Trainees, Residents or Post-Docs Candidate

Anna Uehara, MSc, PhD (Candidate)
Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore

Personal Statement
As I begin to transition from a PhD candidate in infectious disease to continuing a career in global health research and service, this Council position for members who are students, trainees and residents or post-docs greatly attracts me for a number of reasons. First, to be able to work with leading researchers and clinicians in the global health and tropical medicine field will not only be an honor but also a valuable experience for an early career scientist like myself. I have been involved in the field and bench as a student for several years; hence, it will be my first experience in venues outside of pure research that can bring the necessary spotlight and support to better health systems. As a researcher, I understand the importance of translating the science in meaningful and impactful ways to people who are stakeholders in public health. I look forward to working with the ASTMH team to better communicate the scientific findings and needs of ASTMH, and the global health community at large.

One of my main goals is to broaden and strengthen ASTMH’s global presence. As someone who has gone through the U.S. education system, but has been conducting research overseas in Singapore for the past five years, I have seen various research settings and understand the careful balance of differences in culture, communication and work style as it plays with research. I am confident that with my experience working in multicultural environments, I can make ASTMH’s global presence stronger, starting with Singapore and the surrounding South East Asia region. Recent outbreaks of MERS-CoV, Zika and Nipah viruses have repeatedly shown the value and importance of rapid and clear communication for proper disease management and surveillance. I believe ASTMH is positioned to lead the way for interdisciplinary teams to work seamlessly globally.

A large global presence cannot be established or sustained without strong membership from young to experienced researchers. As a Councilor representing members who are students, trainees and residents or post-docs, I hope to be a close liaison for other students/post-docs in ASTMH by creating an environment for members to network and communicate year-round, beyond the dates of the annual meetings. Whether it be through establishing regular research communication newsletters amongst early researchers or setting up career building sessions throughout the year, members – especially young researchers – can have additional opportunities to hone their science communication skills in a meaningful manner. The ability to effectively communicate basic science and evidence-based research to not only other scientists, but also to politicians, non-government organizations and industry counterparts is an essential skill that is desperately needed. With the experienced leadership from the board and active participation from the membership, ASTMH can enhance science communication to both research stakeholders and the public.

Summary of Volunteer/Member Roles in ASTMH
I have been a member of ASTMH since 2014, when I first attended the ASTMH conference. Since then I have also been a member of ACGH and most recently became a member of ACCTMTH. I attended the ASTMH conference last year, 2017, with two posters showcasing two projects that I am working on for my PhD.

As a PhD candidate, I have also served on student councils at school: Vice President of PhD Student Council (AY 2016-2017) and Treasurer of Medical School Student Council (AY 2015-2016). Through both positions, I had the responsibility as a liaison between students and faculty/staff to organize social events and career building sessions. Furthermore, as the Vice President of the PhD Student Council, I co-chaired the annual students’ research symposium with lectures from overseas experts.

With the Singapore community, I have been very active with the local alumni group for Duke University – Duke Club of Singapore. I joined the club shortly after moving to Singapore in September of 2014, and was quickly nominated to be VP of Events (September 2014 – August 2016), Interim President (April 2014 – August 2016) and have been serving as President since August 2016. As VP of Events, I tripled the number of annual events to nearly 30 events including networking sessions, Professor and Administrator visits, family-oriented outings and our annual Thanksgiving Potluck. As President, I have been representing Duke University at different venues in Singapore, including meetings with the U.S. Ambassador and Singapore’s Ministry of Education. I have also focused on improving our alumni’s contribution back to the University by creating community service opportunities and meeting 100% of alumni interview demand from prospective undergraduate students.

As an undergraduate student at Bucknell University, I was in charge of an Asian Awareness student group on campus. We held a number of various events around different countries’ holidays including a large annual gala showcasing various music, dance, and food from over 40 Asian countries. As the leader of the Japan Society in AY 2010-2012, one notable event was our fundraiser for the American Red Cross to aid in rebuilding Northern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. For this event we raised over 3000USD through a dinner and silent auctions. I also worked as an EMT throughout my undergraduate career, leading other student volunteers as Captain of Recruitment, Captain of Training and Chair of Public Relations. As a result of my involvement, I was awarded the Athena Award for Empowering Women (2012), American Red Cross Young Hero Award (2011), and Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow Award (2011).

Biographical Information
Anna is currently a PhD candidate at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, where she focuses on pathogen detection platforms for emerging infectious diseases. As a member of Prof Lin-Fa Wang’s laboratory, where bat immunology and zoonotic diseases are the main research interests, Anna’s project focuses on molecular and serological tools for surveillance and disease investigation. She has applied multiple enrichment-based deep-sequencing platforms for the characterization of the 2016 Zika outbreak in Singapore, as well as the identification of pathogens associated with neurologic infections of otherwise unknown etiologies.  She is also utilizing a multiplexed serological approach to understand the spread of bat-borne viruses, such as orthoreovirus and coronavirus, in select human and animal populations.

Prior to her PhD, Anna received a BSc in Neuroscience with Honors from Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA), where her research focused on elucidating the effects of abnormal melatonin level exposure in utero on the development of circadian rhythms in offspring. She continued to expand her research interests at Duke University (Durham, NC) where she studied the molecular epidemiology of dengue fever in Sri Lanka as part of her MSc in Global Health thesis. During her time at the University of Ruhuna in Matara, Sri Lanka, she organized and led a laboratory training program for local technicians focusing on the establishment of different serological assays, as well as basic safety and laboratory practices in resource-limited environments.

Outside of research, Anna is heavily involved with the local alumni group for Duke University – the Duke Club of Singapore. As President, she has increased the alumni engagement with current students and alumni presence in Singapore and the South East Asian region.