Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH

Posted 11 September 2018

2019 Councilor Candidate

Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH
Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health,
University of Maryland School of Medicine, U.S.
Personal Statement
Like many of you, ASTMH is where I have professionally “grown up”. My fondness and respect for all of you, the ASTMH members of today and tomorrow, inspire me to serve on the ASTMH Council.

Some of the more recent changes in our Annual Meeting point to how we can continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of our field and of our members. “Speed networking” events are a great example of maximizing opportunities for our trainees and “Shark Tank” has already ignited the entrepreneurial spirit of many of our members. So, what’s next? We need to prepare the next generation of scientific leaders, outstanding clinicians and public health advocates. ASTMH should provide leadership training that focuses on the unique challenges of our members: cross-cultural communication, mentoring and laboratory management in settings with few, if any, existing research labs. Making these opportunities available to all of our current and future leaders is a top priority for me. The future of global health requires strong voices from LMIC investigators along with researchers and advocates based in high resource settings.

In this era of information overload and fake news, I would like to see ASTMH be the go-to source for the most up-to-date news and perspectives on issues related to global health and tropical medicine. Our press releases, newsletters and other elements of “In the News” are excellent sources of information.  I enjoy the ASTMH Facebook page. We can do better, though. We need to continue to develop creative messages and a wider array venues to convey the expertise and enthusiasm of our members.

Last but not least, I’d like to improve our ability to communicate and advocate to a broad audience. I am not the first to suggest this and we have made great progress. But these is so much more that we can do. We are trying to solve some of the world’s most important health challenges, but it is a challenge to be heard over the voices of the latest blood pressure medication or weight-loss fad. I would like to focus on combining communication and advocacy to make our collective voice effective in promoting the health of people throughout the world.

My passion stems from my desire to use the best science to save lives and to foster a strong next generation of research leaders throughout the world. As a Councilor, I will work to enhance the participation of LMIC students and researchers, strive to further strengthen our scientific, educational and clinical contributions and ensure that our activities are relevant to the current and future challenges of global health.

Summary of Volunteer/Member Roles in ASTMH
My many roles in ASTMH and AJTMH have motivated me to serve as Councilor.

I first joined ASTMH in 2002 when I was beginning my pediatric infectious disease fellowship and decided to pursue a research project looking at the interaction between malaria and HIV in Malawi.

In 2007, I was invited to join the Young Investigator Award Committee and found the interaction with bright and eager research trainees both inspiring and humbling.

I have served as a member of the Program Committee for ten years, leading the section on malaria treatment and drug resistance.

For the past three years, I have been a member of the selection committee for the Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine, a role that now includes not just selecting fellowship recipients from a highly competitive pool of applicants but also serving as a mentor to the trainees.

The Editors sought me out to inaugurate a new section for AJTMH. I am working with them to create a forum for reviews and perspectives. Our goal is to share timely opinions about important issues and to provide expert reviews of “niche” topics that will not be adequately addressed in other publications. If you are reading this and have an idea for this new section of our journal, please send it along!

Biographical Information
I am Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I am a pediatric infectious disease specialist, with a primary research interest in malaria and global child health. In my career, I have conducted research, engaged in clinical care and led education programs in several resource-limited countries, and have dedicated the past 15 years to working in Malawi. My family’s favorite summer activity is visiting my field sites where they teach Malawian children to play baseball and sing songs from the musical Hamilton.

My research program includes clinical trials, observational studies and laboratory research, largely funded by the NIH. In addition, I am one of the leaders of the Malawi International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR), first awarded eight years ago and recently renewed. My research currently focuses on malaria infection during pregnancy and its impact on infants, the interaction between HIV and malaria and identifying reservoirs of malaria transmission. My laboratory at the University of Maryland explores the application of molecular epidemiology tools to address research priorities related to malaria pathogenesis, disease burden and drug resistance.

As Director of the Malaria Research Program at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, I have the privilege of leading a large interdisciplinary team of malaria researchers who are dedicated to developing strategies to move toward malaria elimination and to improve the well-being of children living in malaria-endemic countries.

I have extensive experience mentoring trainees in the United States, Asia and Africa and am deeply committed to training the next generation of international health researchers. In recognition of my success and commitment to training, I received an award from the NIH to support mentoring of graduate students and fellows in malaria research and also a Fogarty International Center Global Infectious Diseases Training Grant to support Malawian students pursuing PhDs. For many years, I directed the pediatric infectious diseases fellowship program and served on the Medical Scientist Training Program advisory committee, and now am developing a Faculty Career Development and Mentoring Program at the University of Maryland. I was a member of the ASTMH Young Investigator Committee and serve as a committee member and mentor for the Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine.

In addition to my roles as a researcher, educator and clinician, I contribute to national and international advisory committees, including the WHO Technical Expert Group on Malarial Chemotherapy, the Program Committee for the American Society of Microbiology Microbe meeting and several advisory and safety committees for interventional clinical trials targeting pregnant women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.