Claire Panosian Dunavan,
MD, FIDSA, DTM&H (London)
UCLA School of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
10833 Le Conte Ave, CHS 37-121
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1688

Division office: 310-825-7225
Voicemail: 310-794-6053
Facsimile: 310-825-3632

Awakening To Global Health

Health Affairs, July 2007

Not long ago, the personal assistant to an actress left me a voicemail message. In the past, I had provided travel care—vaccines and malaria pills, treatments for pesky rashes and other overseas ills—to the actress, her husband, and members of their entourage. Two or three years had passed since our last visit, but, of course, I remembered the glamorous crew. The aging celebrity—still beautiful. The business tycoon husband who adored and indulged her. And, last but not least, the butler, secretaries, and other helpers who kept the couple’s lives running in true, Hollywood-fairytale style.

As an occasional doctor to the household, I even knew bits and pieces of its Upstairs, Downstairs dramas. Some staff members—for various reasons—didn’t last. But something in this assistant’s voice told me that she was a seasoned pro. It was respectful, yet it carried a subtle force. She was accustomed, I sensed, to asking favors on behalf of her famous employer.

“Dr. Panosian, could you please call the Mexican authorities…or the World Health Organization?” Pregnant pause. “Pauline [not the actress’s real name] believes there is an outbreak of dengue hemorrhagic fever near the construction site of her new villa on the coast of Mexico. One of her workers there is in the hospital. He has been diagnosed with dengue, malaria, and an amebic liver abscess.”

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Claire Panosian Dunavan, MD, DTM&H (London), 2008 President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, received her education at Stanford University, Northwestern Medical School, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. First as Chief of Infectious Diseases at LA County-Olive View Medical Center, then as Director of Travel and Tropical Medicine at UCLA, she has been a UCLA professor, clinician, and teacher since 1984. She has also worked overseas in Haiti, Taiwan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Albania, Armenia, and Tanzania, among other countries.

Dunavan’s second career as a print and broadcast journalist includes 6 years as a medical editor, reporter, and co-anchor for Lifetime Television. In 1997, her interview with a dying physician won an international “Freddie” Award. In 2000, with her husband Patrick Dunavan—an 8-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker —she produced a television program on hepatitis B which has reached 300 million international viewers. In recent years, she has written regularly for national newspapers and magazines. She currently writes a weekly column called “The Infection Files” which runs in California newspapers. Her journalism spans issues in infectious diseases and public health affecting everyone on the planet to global health policy and economics.

© 2010 Claire Panosian Dunavan