GUEST COLUMN

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Infectious Diseases

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
D. A. Henderson

led the World Health Organization’s global campaign to eradicate smallpox. In November 1979 an international commission declared the campaign a success.

Q: How/why did you become involved in global health issues?

A: My career in global health really began when I had to serve time in the Uniform Service at the end of internship and a man came through and talked with me about the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, which I had never heard of; it was very small at the time, and it sounded very interesting. It was the Epidemic Intelligence Service in which you would go to various epidemics on 24 hour call. And so, I went there for two years.

When I was completing my internship, the question was, what was I going to do about specializing? And I'd decided I was going to be a cardiologist, and so that was the training I was preparing to take up and which I did for two years after I did my introduction in the Epidemic Intelligence Service and what I found was that end of a day and I'm seeing patient after patient, I thought to myself, am I really making a difference? At the end of the day, you've got congestive heart failure, maybe a little constipation, maybe a little upset tummy, that sort of thing. At the end of the day, you say, "Would it had made any difference if I hadn't been here at all?" And I contrasted that with my experience while I was working out of Atlanta at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, we were constantly involved in major problems. You've got a big outbreak here, you're looking at trends of disease hoping to pick up let's say an unknown outbreak of food borne disease or what have you. It was an adventure every day. It was an adventure.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Roger Glass

is director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health.

Q: How/why did you become involved in global health issues?

A: First, from a moral standpoint, as citizens of the wealthiest country in the world, we have a responsibility to share our scientific knowledge and medical advances to benefit those less fortunate than ourselves. Second, in this increasingly "flat" world, health issues impact us all. The recent outbreak of SARS and the ongoing bird flu epidemic in Asian poultry both show that diseases don't respect borders. Globalization has increased the movement of people and products around the world, which means diseases can spread more quickly. Finally, Americans benefit enormously from research that has taken place elsewhere. Many parents rely on products such as Pedialyte when their children have diarrhea. This kind of oral rehydration therapy was originally developed by scientists working in Bangladesh who wanted to learn to treat cholera, which can kill quickly.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Ciro de Quadros

is Director of International Programs at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. At the Pan American Health Organization, he led the successful campaign eradicate poliomyelitis from the Americas.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Health is a human right in the sense that it is a global public health good and has to be attained by all individuals. 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Ian Frazer

was the leading researcher on the GARDASIL cervical cancer vaccine. He is based at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and was named Australian of the Year in 2006 in recognition of his contribution.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: I believe that we as individuals and as nations have a moral responsibility to ensure equitable access to health care across the planet, and particularly to ensure access to the benefits of publicly funded medical research. 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Julia Royall

is chief of international programs at the National Library of Medicine. As director of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Communications Network she led an initiative to launch fast and reliable Internet connectivity all across Africa, to provide access to current medical literature.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Earlier this week, I was passing by an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in Gulu in the North of Uganda, an area that has been torn by war for the last 20 years. Out from the huts, built close together and seeming to stretch on forever, ran a small child, coming to the roadside to watch the vehicles passing by on the long road back to KampalA: I photographed her so she was captured in time, but her image continued to play over and over again in my mind in full motion. What rights does this child have?  How will she have a future beyond "feedings" by USAID?  How will she receive health care? Be educated? Be able to think and move beyond the camp--where she was born and all she has known. Through my particular spectacles, I see good health as critical to this little girl being able to feed, clothe, and shelter herself. If she is not healthy, she cannot go to school or work or envision anything beyond the limitations of the camp. Is not good health the bedrock on which one can build a better life? A better world? But back to Gulu: No matter what else she makes of life, should not she at least have a spot on the playing field?

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Paul Farmer

is the founding director of Partners In Health, an international aid organization that combines research, training, advocacy, and direct health care services to help people living in some of the poorest areas of the world. Partners In Health empowers local communities by training local residents as doctors, nurses, and outreach workers and allows the views of local residents to shape the actions of the organization. Dr. Farmer developed programs to provide treatment for tuberculosis and HIV patients in Haiti at a time when many argued that these diseases were too expensive to treat in impoverished communities.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Social and economic rights, which include the right to health care, have been termed the "neglected stepchildren" of the human rights movements and held up in opposition to the political and civil rights now embraced, at least on paper, by many of the world's governments. So striking is this division within the rights movements that some have come to refer to social and economic rights--that is, the right to health care, clean water, primary education, a decent livelihood, and other basic entitlements--as "the rights of the poor."

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Tanyaporn Wansom

As a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Tanya Wansom raise awareness among medical students about vital health issues. She has trained future physicians to educate local middle school and high school students in their communities about HIV/AIDS, and participates in events such as calls to Congressmen to encourage funding for AIDS relief in Africa.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: To me, health and human rights means that people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have equal value placed on their lives. Although I know this isn't true in the world today, I think it's unconscionable that 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, which is less than many people in the United States spend on their daily cup of coffee. 

As a global AIDS activist, I also equate the lack of access for first-line HIV/AIDS medications as a failure to value others' lives. When life-saving medication can be bought for less than a dollar a day and people are still dying without the opportunity to access these medications, I view this as tantamount to telling them that their lives are not worth that much to the world.