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

Jambo, Jahi

Jama, March 2005

Two years ago, I met 30-year-old Jahi at a holiday lodge down a rutted road in Arusha, Tanzania. When my husband and I first arrived in Arusha, Jahi was our official greeter and hotel guide. A childlike man in a burlap smock, he couldn’t wait to show us the lodge’s open-air restaurant, its private flock of egrets, its individual bungalows with red cement floors and batik curtains. No sooner had we closed our door than we heard a tap-tap on our window. Once again we spied Jahi’s bobbing head, ear-to-ear smile, and daft gaze. Did we need anything else? he gestured energetically. No, we replied, we’re great right now. Asante, Jahi. Thanks but no thanks.

A few hours later, we exchanged another greeting with Jahi, then left for the Arusha International Conference Center. Its lawn was filled with birdsong and scientists immersed in lively conversation. It was the opening reception for the world’s largest-ever malaria research conference, the Third Pan-African Multilateral Initiatives in Malaria, MIM for short. I’m not a researcher, but I had recently agreed to co-edit a report on malaria subsidies. To the casual observer, my purpose was clear. I was at MIM to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

In my heart, however, seeking facts was not my sole mission. While in Tanzania, I also longed to learn something intangible: the private fears, hopes, and dreams of malaria experts and at least a few stakeholders in the field. What were their gut feelings about Africa’s oldest enemy? Had the time finally come to wrestle it to the ground? With the recent publication of the gene sequences of Plasmodium falciparum and its chief African vector, Anopheles gambiae, many MIM attendees were predicting a great leap forward for malaria research. But others at the conference—particularly those from Africa—seemed to temper their expectations. For starters, they would gladly settle for more bed nets plus new treatments like artemisinins (highly effective antimalarial drugs available in Asia but scarce and unaffordable in Africa) to counter growing resistance to older remedies like chloroquine.

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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