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New from MESA: Key takeaways from the ASTMH Annual Meeting by the MESA Correspondents

December 2, 2020 - 10:24 -- MESA Alliance

 

This ASTMH Annual Meeting was intense! If you missed any of the sessions or want to recap what was discussed, you can read the summaries of more than 25 symposia written by the MESA Correspondents.

Huge thanks to all the Correspondents who worked so hard to report on the malaria science and to ASTMH and the Co-Chairs of each symposium for their fantastic partnership. Thanks also to the Senior and Managing Editors Valentina Mangano (University of Pisa), Julie Chaccour (Independent Consultant) and Elisabet Martí (MESA). Together we were able to share some malaria highlights from ASTMH for all to read!

Read the full series here

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The MESA Correspondents Program behind the scenes

Manuela Runge (Northwestern University, USA) and Nathalie Amvongo Adjia (Institute of Medical Research and Medicinal Plants Studies, Cameroon) have participated in the MESA Correspondents Program as volunteer reporters three times. After covering the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting, they discuss their current research, their experiences as Correspondents and why they like the program so much. 

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the focus of your current research?

Manuela Runge (MR): I am a malaria epidemiologist and modeller, with a background in health sciences. My research activity started with a school malaria survey, led by the National Malaria Control Programme in Tanzania and in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. During my PhD, I provided malaria intervention impact predictions to support malaria strategic planning in Tanzania. My current research focuses on modelling the impact of intermittent preventive therapies in infants, while I also model local COVID-19 transmission and health burden to support the health department in Illinois.

Nathalie Amvongo Adjia (NAA): I am an African woman early-career researcher. In 2016, I was recruited as research associate for the Institute of Medical Research and Medicinal Plants Studies - Cameroon where I became Research Officer in 2019. I am equally finalizing a PhD in Parasitology programme at the University of Yaoundé 1. I am passionate about malaria vector biology and control with a special focus on applying population genetics and genomics tools to assess the spread of insecticide resistance makers in African malaria vectors across mountainous landscapes.

Q: You already participated in the MESA Correspondents program three times covering different conferences, both in-person and online. How would you describe the program and being a Correspondent?

MR: The program offers the opportunity to participate at a conference with a greater goal. The correspondents summarize the conference sessions and help MESA to share the latest research synopses with scientists around the world. The correspondents are working in pairs covering one presentation or session together. The communication among each other and with speakers is different in an online compared to an in-person conference; however, the program structure and benefits are very similar.

NAA: The MESA Correspondents program is definitely an amazing experience. MESA offers a unique opportunity to graduate students and early-career researchers working on the malaria research field to attend most of the malaria-related conferences or symposia around the world. The program is very beneficial in the way that it helps one to come across the most recent malaria research and topics; also, it creates a research networking environment.

Q: What is the thing you remember the most from your first experience as a Correspondent volunteer?

MR: I first participated in the correspondence program in 2018 at the MIM conference in Senegal, which together was an outstanding experience. From that time, I remember a lot, the get-togethers with other correspondents and the MESA team, the many hours spent on rewriting summaries and rushing from one session to the next. And the rewarding feeling the next day when the daily report went out.

NAA: My first experience as a MESA Correspondent volunteer was during the 6th Pan-African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) Annual Conference & Exhibition 2019 in Cameroon, my home country. It was such a big event which brought together, from all the corners of the world, students, scientists, experts and industries working for malaria control and elimination in a multi-disciplinary way. During that event, I got to know Trizah/Joanna/Teresia (co-correspondents), Maria (ISGlobal) with who I kept good contact, and Inga from Malaria World. They made my experience very great.

Q: In your opinion, which are the main benefits of this experience?

MR: The program holds many benefits, from personal writing and listening skills to networking and exposure to conferences settings and latest research discussions. For example, the report writing is a helpful learning exercise to distil information and balance accuracy versus compactness. Also, the opportunity to participate in a conference is of great value especially for first time attendees and students.

NAA: I think the main benefits concern research networking and the possibility to be aware and updated of current research interests in the field of malaria.

Q: Do you think the Program has helped you advance towards your future professional goals?

MR: Yes, absolutely. Formally, it provides a certificate of participation and the reports are public, which can be useful in a CV and a job application. Personally, the program trains attentiveness to talks, as well as writing concise summaries for a public audience.

NAA: Definitely. Thanks to the MESA Correspondents program, I had the opportunity to assess the current trends of research around the malaria field, especially the vector biology and control (my field of interest). More importantly, I was able to network and discuss with senior scientists within the malaria field. This was a wise investment towards the accomplishment of my academic and professional goals.

Q: Any funny anecdotes you would like to share?

MR: During in-person conference, we spent long evenings in the hotel lobby with the other correspondents and editors to finish the daily reports, half-eaten dinner plates next to the laptop. One evening we even returned too late for the hotel kitchen and had to go outside. Everyone was driven to get the best possible report out for the next day.

NAA: It would definitely be the Vestergaard Quiz Night during the PAMCA Annual Conference 2019. Actually, it was a kind of party with lots of entertainments and a quiz built on questions related to mosquito’s disease vectors. Participants were assigned in groups and there was a prize for the winners. Unfortunately, my group was eliminated at the semi-final…so sad but really a good time.

Q: What would you say to someone thinking of applying to be a Correspondent in the future?

MR: Reach out to the other correspondents, be engaged and be prepared for long nights!

NAA: If your research studies or career interests concern malaria, mosquito’s vectors or vector-borne diseases (in a much broader way), do not hesitate to apply for and join the MESA Correspondents Program. It is the kind of experience that could really help in fostering your progress as a malaria researcher.

Manuela Runge is a postdoctoral researcher at the Northwestern University, USA. Her research focuses on simulating malaria interventions to inform malaria control strategies at the country level and recently included the development and application of a COVID-19 transmission model to support the local health department.

 

Nathalie Amvongo Adjia is a research officer at the Institute of Medical Research and Medicinal Plants Studies in Yaoundé, Cameroon and is also finalizing her PhD in the Parasitology program of the University of Yaoundé 1. Her research broadly concerns the population genetics and genomics of insecticide resistance genes in African malaria vectors.

 

The MESA Correspondents Program is a collaboration between MESA and the conference organizers. The MESA Correspondents are volunteers who report on selected presentations at global conferences. The reports are disseminated online, enabling people who could not attend the meeting to be informed about the current advances.

Apply to be a Correspondent!

*This interview was originally posted on the MESA Alliance website