Annual Meeting, Day 3: NTDs, Kids, and Careers

I started off my morning with two unpleasant experiences: a burnt cup of coffee from my hotel’s breakfast buffet and a session on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Please don’t misunderstand me – the session, hosted by Dr. Hélène Carabin, was very interesting, but pictures of the clinical manifestations of those worms will make even the sturdiest of young professionals’ skin crawl. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about onchocerciasis, or river blindness (did you know that those worms can live for 14 years in the body?); helminthes; baglisascariasis, or raccoon roundworm (in Brooklyn, of all places); neurocysticercosis, and trachoma. These diseases have rightly earned their designation as NTDs – they are inexpensive and easy to treat and prevent, yet most people have never heard of most of them. (Alanna Shaikh has a theory that giving them more descriptive and graphic names will attract attention to them – you can read her proposed naming scheme here.)

Next up was a session hosted by Dr. Elvira Beracochea on aid accountability and effectiveness. There were several very insightful talks and an interesting discussion (Dr. Beracochea always likes to involve the audience, which can be fun). After a lunch of Vietnamese fast food, I attended a session on child survival and child health, to which I was invited by Ms. Beth Charpentier (Ms. Katherine Robsky’s colleague from Global Health Access Program). While I believe that maternal and child health is very important (and I am thrilled that it is enjoying so much attention from Secretary Clinton and other development advocates), I am not very familiar with that area, so I learned a lot.

Finally, I attended the “Careers in Global Health” panel that is organized by Dr. Carabin every year. There was a very useful presentation on the key knowledge areas and skills that currently global health leaders identified as crucial to the incoming workforce. Ms. Carol Dabbs provided some practical information on the different points of entry with USAID, and then Dr. Eckhard Kleinau told his incredible story of breaking into global health after finishing his residency (he and his wife sold everything they owned and drove to Burkina Faso – from Germany! – in a VW van). If you would like any of this information, please contact me by e-mail at jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com.

Finally, the section held its closing business meeting at 6. After committee updates, Dr. Miriam Labbok was recognized for her hard work as section chair for the past two years. I personally will always remember her as a very welcoming face when I attended the annual meeting for the first time last year as a CDC fellow – she encouraged us “newbies” to jump right in.

Tomorrow’s Global Health Luncheon promises to be a real treat (though I probably will not be able to attend – I will have to navigate public transportation back to the airport). The malaria session is always well-attended, however, and it is in the morning – so hopefully I will see you there!

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