As I type I am surrounded by thousands of people working to fight against the myriad diseases that plague mankind. This is the 63rd annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH) and for the past few days I've followed #TropMed14 on Twitter and watched as people from all over the world connected their brainpower and organizations with an ease that couldn't have happened a decade ago. I'm at this conference because I'm a poet fascinated by the intersection of my art form with the science of global health, but I must admit that I feel a bit like a lone groupie watching the rockstars do their thing.
Look! There goes Dr. Pete Billingsley of Sanaria, a biotech company that I believe has the world's greatest chance at finally developing an effective vaccine for malaria. Though their team has 48 members they are conducting clinical trials all over the world thanks to their tireless belief in collaborating with others and an obsession with thinking outside of the box for ways to do so. Over there is James Porter of The END Fund, a private initiative that embodies collaboration by its very nature--they gather philanthropists and target their resources toward tackling the five most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, and river blindness. And there goes Karen Goraleski, executive director of the ASTMH, talking with Alan Magill, director of the Malaria Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
But ultimately I'm a sucker for story, and this conference has fired me up because it seems no matter which way I turn my attention there is a story unfolding about how collaboration has led to on-the-ground change. I'll leave you with a documentary glimpse into one of those stories:
Cameron Conaway is the author of Malaria, Poems.