TEPHINET at 25: Q&A with TEPHINET Advisory Board Chair Dr. Aamer Ikram

Amber Lauff, Communications Manager; Gabriella Corrigan, Task Force Communications Manager

During the 11th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference from September 4-9 in Panama City, we spoke with TEPHINET Advisory Board Chair Dr. Aamer Ikram about the valuable platform the conference provides and the essential role FETPs play in their countries and regionally. Below, he shares what’s most intriguing about the network of global field epidemiologists.

Q: What role do you think conferences like this can play in helping countries lead their health system strengthening efforts? 

Q: How can FETP fellows and alumni take what they’ve learned during the conference and apply it to their work back home?

Ikram: The shared knowledge they bring back home is translated into actions and implementation. Over the last 25 years, the experience coming out with TEPHINET is continuing to have an impact much beyond conferences. During this conference, we have witnessed people coming from so many different countries, hearing about whatever area they focus on, their experience, outcomes and so on. Maybe it was Zika virus, COVID-19 or something else. That helps in transferring knowledge to others and in turn translation into meaningful activities. The main aim remains to curtail the infectious diseases and then the non-communicable diseases as well. The challenges are manifold in the developing world as we talk of the transition in the developed world from infectious diseases to the non-communicable diseases. We all were caught in a very grave example of COVID-19, but it has brought a lot of learning to the international arena.

Q: What role do you think FETPs help play in improving countries’ pandemic preparedness, response, and equity?

Ikram: They provide the base for disease surveillance within countries. There are thousands and thousands of examples where field epidemiologists, trained through the program, have gone out of their way for the call of the duty to deliver, and I would not only call it a service to their own country but service to humanity as the leading mission. That’s one of the core parts of FETPs—that we are there to serve humanity.

Q: Looking back at when the first FETPs were created and TEPHINET was founded 25 years ago to today more than two years into a pandemic and into 2030, how far have countries come in strengthening field epidemiology capacity and where do they need to go from here?

Q: As the Advisory Board Chair for TEPHINET, what is your call to action for the world?

Cooperation, coordination and collaboration; East or West, developing or developed, countries or continents, whatever the place or scenario, we have to join hands together to make the world a much safer and healthier place.

-Professor Aamer Ikram