ASLM convenes people from different countries, sectors, and disciplines to find local solutions for global health threats. At ASLM2016 we are committed to combatting common global health threats together. In order to be successful, we need to continue to work together, on both a local and global scale, and make sure both men and women in science and medicine are represented equally.
Yet only a third of the world’s scientific researchers are women. Despite that fact, women have made great gains in scientific leadership and research globally. In Africa the average percentage is 34%. But digging deeper, this number hides disparities on the continent: 52% of researchers in Cape Verde are women, while in Guinea that number only reaches 6%. It is clear that many challenges remain, and more work needs to be done.
ASLM is taking this special opportunity to recognise women’s continued contribution to science and medicine, and have highlighted seven women from the African continent that are committed to improving laboratory medicine and combatting global health threats during the upcoming ASLM2016 conference.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti is the ASLM2016 Conference Opening Keynote Speaker & Global Health Security Plenary Speaker. She made history by becoming the first woman to lead the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO). At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Dr. Moeti led WHO AFRO’s efforts on treatment scale-up in the context of the ‘3 by 5’ initiative and established a regional HIV laboratory network resulting in a significant increase in the number of HIV-positive individuals accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in Africa. She also successfully spearheaded the development of WHO Regional Strategies for public health priority areas, including communicable and non-communicable diseases, immunization, maternal and child health, and health systems strengthening.
Professor Wendy Stevens serves as a board member for ASLM, and is the conference co-chair of ASLM2016. She holds a joint position with the South Africa National Health Laboratory Service (the largest pathology service provider in South Africa that services 80% of the population in the public sector) and the University of the Witwatersrand. She created a team that established the first HIV PCR laboratory within NHLS for providing early HIV infant diagnosis, CD4 counting, and HIV viral load testing, all based on strong scientific research and development. The ideals of laboratory strengthening and the elevation of the importance of the laboratory’s contribution in healthcare within Africa has been the goal of her lifetime of work. It is being realised with organisations internationally, such as the launch and development of ASLM, and locally in South Africa through the development of programmes such as the National Priority Programme. At ASLM2016, Professor Stevens will speak on HIV viral load testing scale-up in Africa and NHLS will sponsor multiple scientific seminar sessions.
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr is Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Columbia University. She is the founder and director of ICAP, a large school-wide centre currently working in 21 countries around the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. El-Sadr has worked closely with US government agencies, international organisations, academic institutions, community-based organisations, and civil society groups in the pursuit of responsive, inclusive, sustainable, and innovative approaches to addressing global health threats and achieving public health impact. She recently shared with ASLM that “the success of the global HIV scale-up has rested on the adoption of the public health approach, using innovative approaches to serve the most people rather than the few. The same approach embraced in the HIV response can be very instrumental in achieving success in confronting the threat of cancer in Africa.” Dr. El-Sadr will lead several conversations at ASLM2016 centred on addressing the threat of non-communicable diseases in Africa.
Dr. Ramogola-Masire trained in Obstetrics and Gynaecology prior to pursing subspecialties in Perinatal Medicine and Cervical Cancer at the University of Cape Town. Her experience with the “See and Treat” approach has been instrumental for the success of the implementation of this programme for diagnosis and treatment of pre-cervical cancer lesions in HIV-infected women in Botswana. She was recently nominated to serve in the technical working group for piloting universal ART for pregnant women in Botswana. Dr. Ramogola-Masire was appointed as the In-Country Director of the Botswana-U Penn Partnership in January 2009, and also serves as the Country Director and Lead Physician for the Women’s Health Program. At ASLM2016, she will lead sessions focused on leapfrogging to meet local needs and strengthen systems for pathology in Africa.
Dr. Cheryl Cohen is a medical doctor with a specialisation in clinical microbiology and background in epidemiology. She is co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa. Dr. Cohen led the establishment of a national surveillance programme for severe acute respiratory infections in South Africa in 2009, and she has been instrumental in the scale-up of the African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE). Simultaneously, she directed the establishment of rotavirus surveillance at several sites throughout South Africa and has been intensively involved in leading the epidemiology component of a national surveillance programme. She will lead a roundtable on the topic during ASLM2016.
Ms. Mah-Sere Keita is a public health professional with 15 years of experience managing global health programmes, particularly in the fields of public health workforce development and improving the diagnosis of infectious diseases in low-resource settings. She currently serves as the Director of Global Health Security at ASLM, and has previously held leadership positions at the Catholic Relief Services-Mali, American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). Ms. Keita leads ASLM’s effort to implement a sound global health security programme for addressing infectious disease risks on the continent. She recently shared with ASLM that “building health system capacity by promoting security-strengthening and knowledge-sharing activities among laboratories will be essential to achieving GHSA goals in the African region.” She will co-chair a roundtable session at ASLM2016 focused on HIV 90-90-90 targets and HIV impact assessments.
Professor Alash’le Abimiku serves as the Chair of the ASLM Board of Directors. She is Professor of Medicine at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA and the Executive Director of the International Research Center of Excellence of the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria. She was the first to identify the unique nature of the HIV strain prevalent in Nigeria in 1993 as subtype G1 and later documented the adverse consequences of “mixed” feeding of African infants. In recent years, she has successfully focused her research activity on the significant laboratory capacity she developed in Africa, which includes HIV vaccine preparedness research, mother-to-child HIV transmission, and TB-HIV co-infections.
We invite you to join us for ASLM2016 in Cape Town, South Africa, from 3-8 December 2016. By attending the conference, you can meet these women and many others who are committed to combatting common global health threats together.
To find out about registration, please click here.