This is a guest post written by Karen A. Goraleski, Executive Director of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
As the professional home for researchers, entomologists, virologists, clinicians, veterinarians, program professionals, advocates and others in tropical medicine/global health, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene members will inevitably reflect on World Malaria Day on just how far malaria research has come.
We’ll be thinking about the latest data, and consulting our own American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and other authoritative sources. We’ll be considering what we know and thinking about what we still need to resolve. In short, we’ll be grappling with the science, shrinking funding and everything else involved.
Well, almost everything.
I want to share an often overlooked aspect of malaria – one I get to see every day. What is it? The dedicated and caring men and women who commit their lives to ending the pain and suffering of malaria. No sound bites, no political messaging – but like a dog with a bone: they have a singular focus on stopping this killer. Plain and simple.
On this World Malaria Day I want to share my insider vantage point. We’ve asked some of our esteemed members and colleagues at the forefront of malaria research and development for their personal perspectives – why do they do this? What do they see as the big challenges and potential game changers?
“Every aspect of malaria, its history, biology, pathophysiology, ecology, and clinical management is endlessly fascinating for me,” ASTMH President Alan Magill, MD, FASTMH, told us. “Once I understood that malaria is a completely preventable, treatable, and eradicable disease, I could not understand why it caused so much suffering globally. I am committed to end this inequality.”
Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. global malaria coordinator for the President’s Malaria Initiative told us that he was infected with malaria as a child in Asia. “A good friend of mine, lost his young daughter to the disease,” he added. These first-hand experiences with the disease bring a strong sense of duty to his role at PMI. “When I was offered the role as the U.S. Global Malaria coordinator to lead the President’s Malaria Initiative, I felt privileged and compelled to do what I could to help achieve the goal of saving lives and removing the significant burden that malaria has on the health systems and communities – particularly in Africa,” Ziemer added.
For Judith E. Epstein, MD, CAPT MC USN, clinical director of the Malaria Vaccine Development Program at the Naval Medical Research Center, the potential to help create a life-saving vaccine is the huge motivator. “The chance to work on a vaccine which might help to stem the tide of this disease has been the driving force for me. What started out as a simple medical school interest has become a passion,” Epstein said, noting that she was “fascinated by the view of malaria parasites under the microscope” during her studies.
As we reflect on the global malaria fight this week, I hope you’ll take a minute to learn more about the people so heavily involved in these efforts to defeat malaria and to whom we owe so much.
Karen A. Goraleski is Executive Director of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. She has testified before Senate Appropriation Sub-Committees making the case for strong tropical medicine research funding. She’s authored letters to the editor published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. She serves on the board of the Global Health Council and is a Steering Committee member of the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC). She has the best job in the world.
About the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
ASTMH, founded in 1903, is a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.