Our 19 highlights of 2019
Tamar Ghosh, RSTMH CEO
As 2019 draws to a close, we wanted to look back at what has been an incredible year for RSTMH. From hosting ECTMIH 2019, to tripling the number of small grants we awarded, as well as launching a new membership type, welcoming new Student and Country Ambassadors from around the world and meeting so many of you at events across different continents, it’s been a memorable 12 months.
Thank you for your support over the last year from the whole RSTMH team. We wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to working together in 2020!
Here are our 19 highlights from 2019, chosen by the RSTMH team.
In 2019, RSTMH took on one of its biggest challenges – hosting the 11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Liverpool.
Across five days, we hosted more than 1,200 attendees from 94 countries, with content spanning prevention, treatment and patient care, One Health, health systems, age-related care and external factors influencing future health. We also had sessions specifically for those early in their careers, which included career advice and mentoring sessions.
As well as a selection of keynote speakers including Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, we came away with many lessons and areas of potential work to take forward, such as climate, mental health, the healthcare workforce, partnerships, One Health, the importance of communication and the need to better tackle outbreaks.
This year, we started the process of making International Health fully open access.
With discounts for RSTMH members and waivers for those in low- and middle-income countries, we hope to remove barriers to researchers publishing in the journal and accessing articles.
In September, we published a special issue of the journal to celebrate its tenth anniversary, featuring Jeremy Farrar writing on innovation, Mwele Malecela on neglected tropical diseases, Jeff Sachs on health financing, Vikram Patel on mental health and Janet Hemingway on vector-borne diseases, to mention just a few.
Our Student Ambassadors programme has gone from strength to strength. At its peak this year, we had 45 Student Ambassadors based in 17 countries around the world.
Between them they have written blogs, helped us at events and promoted RSTMH’s work at their institutions.
Student Ambassadors act as the link between students, institutions and RSTMH and make a valuable contribution to assisting us in achieving our vision and mission, as well as ensuring we’re recognising and supporting the next generation of tropical medicine and global health professionals.
In 2019, we started work on an exciting project that will improve our website, our online payment processes and communication with our members.
This is a huge development for the Society that will go live in 2020. We will keep our networks informed of updates and any action required.
5. Early careers membership
One of the Society's main priorities is to respond to the needs of our supporters and members, which is why we introduced an Early careers membership subscription this year.
Now student members don’t have to pay the full RSTMH membership rate straight after graduating but can still enjoy all the same benefits to help them in their career in tropical medicine and global health.
This year we have had the pleasure of meeting many of our members from the around world.
As well as attending events such as ECTMIH 2019 and our Annual Meeting, we hosted special member-only events in the US, Kenya and Tanzania.
Additionally, we welcomed some of our longest-serving members and Fellows to the RSTMH offices in London: Dr Edith Waldmann, for example, has been a Fellow of the Society for 65 years and the Coopers, who visited in May, have been Fellows since 1968.
7. Media coverage for global health survey and report
As part of a major report launched in September, RSTMH asked medical professionals from across the world what they think the next 25 years will hold for global health.
The key findings were that 43% believe the climate crisis will be the most pressing global health challenge for the next 25 years.
8. ITN films
In something completely new for us, we partnered with ITN Productions Industry News to produce a news-style programme “Access to Health: Global Challenges”.
The programme features reports on tackling the stigma of leprosy in India and the growing concern of snakebite as a neglected tropical disease, as well as profiles from leading organisations, such as IVCC, Sanofi and Sightsavers among others, which showcase their vital work.
9. Hemingway Award for translational science
We’re happy this year to have strengthened our partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), by launching the Hemingway Award to recognise translational science.
The award is in recognition of Professor Janet Hemingway’s outstanding career and was announced on the event of her stepping down as LSTM Director.
10. Women and RSTMH
In light of the above, another highlight of the year was Dr Caroline Harper, Sightsavers CEO, winning the first-ever Hemingway Award for her work transforming the funding landscape for trachoma.
This year, Professor Hemingway was also the first woman recipient of Manson Medal (which she shared with Professor David Warrell), RSTMH’s highest honour.
We also thank Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones for her tenure as RSTMH President this year, only the second woman to hold this post. Regarding our programmatic work, we were happy to have a 50/50 split between males and females for our small grant awardees.
We’re proud to have played a small part in another great year for women in global health.
11. The Ebola crisis and RSTMH members
The current DRC Ebola crisis started in August 2018 and is still ongoing. In May this year we asked our members, many of whom have worked in the DRC and neighbouring areas or have experience of outbreak situations, what they felt we should do.
Among other things, our partners expressed the desire to share their direct experience, through our scientific channels. As a result, we launched a new article type “Lessons from the field” in our journal and have published the first article on Ebola.
We were able to award 50 early career research grants to researchers based across the world this year – triple the number from 2018.
This growth from 16 to 50 has been made possible through partnerships with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research function of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) who have provided funds to add to our existing budget.
We marked the second International Snakebite Awareness Day at ECTMIH 2019 with Dr Mwele Malecela, the WHO Director for Neglected Tropical Diseases, as well as representatives from Wellcome Trust, LSTM, Global Snakebite Initiative, Health Action International and others.
This followed on from two exciting announcements from earlier this year in May: the World Health Organization, (WHO) launched its strategy to halve global snakebite mortality rates by 2030 and Wellcome Trust revealed a new £80m/seven-year snakebite research programme.
14. Representing RSTMH around the world
We were lucky enough to be invited to speak at a number of conferences this year; these included an AMR conference in Delhi, a snakebite envenoming meeting in Oxford, a mycetoma event in Khartoum and finally an NTDs conference in Nairobi.
15. Early career researchers
Carrying on from our work last year to support researchers in the early stages of their careers, we delivered the third East African Research in Progress meeting in Tanzania this September. This event, as well as our Annual Meeting and London Research in Progress, all included mentoring opportunities, something we would like to do more of in 2020.
Dr Mwele Malecela from WHO led one of the mentoring sessions at our Annual Meeting and we have made videos and slides from our London meeting available to RSTMH members.
We plan to do more mentoring in India in March 2020 for our Research Ideas Showcase meeting.
We have welcomed our first six Country Ambassadors from around the world to the RSTMH network.
Our current Country Ambassadors – experts in their fields who help connect us with our members, supporters and networks outside the UK – are from Ethiopia, India, Sudan, Australia, Malawi and Botswana.
17. Past Presidents and Honorary Fellows dinner
It was our pleasure to host a dinner for our Past Presidents and Honorary Fellows at Chandos House in London in May this year.
Among the guests were Dame Sally Davies, our newest Honorary Fellow, Professor Baron Peter Piot, Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones our latest Past President and Professor David Molyneux, a Past President, Honorary Fellow and current Editor-in-Chief of our journal, International Health.
18. The opportunity to leave a gift to RSTMH
RSTMH has been supporting researchers in tropical medicine to save lives, fight disease and improve global health for over 100 years.
This year, we launched our legacies programme. You can now leave a gift in your Will to ensure we will be here for the next generation of emerging talent, providing the tools they need to ensure everyone, everywhere can experience equity in health.
19. Watch out for the RSTMH mosqui-toes
This year, we’ve extended our range of RSTMH-branded merchandise to now include socks, luggage tags, KeepCups and magnets, as well as ties.
After their popularity at ECTMIH 2019, these items are now available on our website for a suggested donation (reduced for members). Every item helps to support our important work.
We look forward to seeing more of you in RSTMH-branded items in 2020!
We wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy 2020, and we look forward to working with you in the near future.