United by their mutual goal to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis (TB), an international, interdisciplinary cadre of experts gathered for a unique symposium at UMass Medical School on Wednesday, Feb. 9. Hosted by the Office of Global Health (OGH) and Commonwealth Medicine, “Addressing the Global Challenges of Tuberculosis” brought together basic scientists, clinicians, outcomes researchers, public health officials and industry representatives to share insights from their respective disciplines and open avenues for collaboration.
Roughly one-third of the globe’s population is infected with the TB bacterium, and every year more than 2 million people worldwide die from active TB, which is also the leading cause of death among people with HIV/AIDS. “Understanding the complexity of TB and the challenges of addressing it effectively, we felt it was necessary to bring together a multidisciplinary group,” explained OGH Associate Provost Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine, who moderated the proceedings.
Keynote speaker Paul Jacques Boncy, MD, set the stage for subsequent roundtable discussions with an overview of the global TB epidemic, including barriers to effective diagnosis and care. His summary drew on direct experience: a Haitian internist and microbiologist, Dr. Boncy is director of The National Public Health Laboratory of Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population. Ravaged by TB even before last year’s devastating earthquake, his country has benefited from its collaboration with the Massachusetts Supranational TB Reference Laboratory (MSRL), which provides technical assistance for diagnosis. MSRL research is administered by UMass Medical School through a partnership established in 2006 between Commonwealth Medicine and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“As you can imagine, being from a developing country, TB is in the heart of our interests, as we are very concerned about alleviating the burden of our present epidemic,” Boncy said. “I am pleased that UMass Medical School invited me to participate.” Also participating in the roundtable was Juan Moreira, MD, PhD, MS, national director of public health in Ecuador. UMMS faculty and distinguished guest faculty from other Massachusetts institutions completed the roster.
“We hope that bringing these people together will stimulate collaboration leading to solutions, and that trainees will find an area they are interested in participating in, whether for a summer or a career,” said Dr. Luzuriaga.
Faculty Participants at “Addressing the Global Challenges of Tuberculosis”