ProMED Anniversary Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet
Each year, ProMED presents an award in honor of the anniversary of its founding in August 1994. We are pleased to announce the winners of this annual award.
Susan de Heveningham Baekeland
In 2021, the ProMED team was encouraged to nominate, and then vote, to decide who should win the annual ProMED Award. I am happy to announce that the ProMED team voted Susan Baekeland as this year’s winner!
Susan is a ProMED Correspondent who works tirelessly scouring the internet for news in plant and animal diseases, parasites, AMR, bacteria, dengue, chikungunya, and zika, to name a few. She is a polyglot and speaks, reads, and/or writes in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Portuguese. She has lived, worked, and studied all over the world, including Kenya, Lebanon, and Syria. Her international experience has led to her being able to provide valuable cultural context for Moderators when sending them articles from areas of the world they may not be familiar with.
I was particularly interested to learn that Susan was the first and only woman ever appointed as a Political Officer Assistant Advisor to South Arabia and the Yemeni Federation from 1963 -1972, working for the British Government! Additionally, she is an incredibly talented self-taught artist who paints animals (but not pigs – “no fur!”).
Members of the ProMED team regularly express to me how much they value Susan’s contributions and what a great job she does finding relevant information in obscure corners of the internet. I have heard many times over how much information would be missed if ProMED didn’t have Susan and how, in fact, we need more Susans – a testament to how much the team values her!
This is Susan’s second time winning this award, her first time being in 2008 when she was a Rapporteur.
Please join me in congratulating Susan on being the winner of 2021’s ProMED Award!
– Julia Maxwell, Director of Disease Surveillance
This year’s award goes to one of our own, Deputy Editor Marjorie Pollack. Marjorie sounded an early warning of a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China on December 30, 2019. Alerted by social media chatter (forwarded by a Chinese-speaking ProMED reader) Marjorie quickly recognized the importance of the cluster and its resemblance to SARS, also first reported by ProMED back in 2003. The post was the first indication to WHO and many others of the most important pandemic in 100 years. She has worked tirelessly since that day and personally posted nearly 350 follow-up COVID reports on ProMED. Her work has helped to secure ProMED’s leadership position in emerging disease monitoring.
Of course Marjorie’s prescience and diligence have not gone unnoticed. She has been cited in numerous media stories. I will quote here extensively from Debora Mackenzie’s excellent book “COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One” (https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/debora-mackenzie/covid-19/9780306924231/ ):
“It was December 31st, and in our suburban French village, just over the border from Geneva, the sun was coming up. I had family in for the holidays and had solemnly promised to stop working.
But, I told myself, that didn’t mean I couldn’t take a peek at ProMED, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything important…
For disease researchers, public health people, and science reporters like me—as well as anyone fascinated by the daily reality show—ProMED is required reading. When I ducked into my office that day, hoping it was early enough that my family wouldn’t notice, the giant Sina Corp’s financial bulletin was reporting people with severe, undiagnosed pneumonia in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province…
…there was a worrying comment by Marjorie Pollack at the bottom of the post. Pollack is a doctor and epidemiologist, … the doyenne of ProMED’s international team of moderators. She was involved in one of its proudest moments: alerting the world, on February 10th, 2003, to the mystery pneumonia in Guangdong later named SARS, nearly two months before China opened up about it.
What she wrote that holiday morning gave me that queasiness you get when you’re trying very hard to dismiss a feeling of foreboding. Besides the news report, she observed, there was a lot of online comment about this.
Twitter and its Chinese counterpart, Weibo, weren’t around when SARS broke out, but online chatrooms were. “The type of social media activity that is now surrounding this event is very reminiscent of the original ‘rumors’ that accompanied the SARS-CoV outbreak,” wrote Pollack. “More information on this outbreak… would be greatly appreciated. And,” she added hopefully, “if results of testing are released.”
Board certified in Internal Medicine, trained at CDC in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) in enteric and neurotropic viral diseases, Marjorie did a Preventive Medicine Residency at CDC as well, with a focus on vaccine preventable diseases. She has worked as a consultant medical epidemiologist for 40 years with a focus on child survival and disease surveillance issues in developing countries (having worked in more than 50 countries) and she has been with ProMED as a subscriber since April 1995. She began working with ProMED in 1997, initially as a websearcher. In addition to her role as Deputy Editor, Marjorie serves as ProMED’s Regional Network editor, its Epidemiology and Surveillance moderator and as our liaison to GOARN.
During the 18 years we have worked together, I have very often benefited from her guidance and from her wisdom; also from her humor and grace. She has trained many of ProMED’s moderator and editorial staff, and her colleagues have overwhelmingly endorsed this award.
Steve Morse and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg
This year’s award goes to Steve Morse and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who, along with the late Jack Woodall, founded ProMED in 1994. Their foresight and imagination began the use of informal (or event-based) surveillance to serve as an early warning for emerging disease outbreaks. (Jack Woodall was the 2004 awardee on ProMED’s 10th anniversary). Their collective vision, which guides us to this day, understood the need for rapid global awareness of outbreaks, for transparency in data flow, the fundamental importance of the One Health model, and the need for international cooperation.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is retired from the State University of New York at Purchase, where she was Professor of Microbiology. Her interests include the use of biological weapons, in particular anthrax. Early on, she recognized that surveillance for biological weapon use was not separable from the surveillance of naturally occurring outbreaks. A founder of the Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Weapons, established in 1989, Barbara was a member of a panel of scientists that advised President Clinton, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Health on biological weapons issues in 1998, and was an Advisor to the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment study of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 1993-4 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Working Group on Biological Weapons. Trained as a molecular biologist, Dr Rosenberg was for many years a cancer researcher at Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and was Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Cornell Medical College. On leaving those positions she became a Research Professor at the State University of New York at Purchase, where she devoted most of her activity to biological weapons issues. Most recently, she has prominently questioned official accounts of the 2001 US mail anthrax attacks. Among numerous honors, she was elected to fellow of the American Cancer Society, a fellow of the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, a Member American Society Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Sigma Xi.
Stephen S Morse is Professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center and Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate Program. He has a long and distinguished career, focused on epidemiology of infectious diseases, especially emerging infections, and improving disease early warning systems. In 2000, he returned to Columbia after 4 years as program manager for Biodefense at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense, where he co-directed the Pathogen Countermeasures program and subsequently directed the Advanced Diagnostics program. He had been Assistant Professor of Virology at Rockefeller University. He has been credited with originating the term “emerging infectious disease” while chairing the 1989 NIAID/NIH (US National Institutes of Health) Conference on Emerging Viruses. He also served as a member of the Steering Committee of the seminal Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Microbial Threats to Health, which issued the 1992 report on Emerging Infectious Diseases. He holds the rank of Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology the American College of Epidemiology, New York Academy of Sciences (and Past Chair, Microbiology Section), the AAAS, and the New York Academy of Medicine. He was the Global Co-Director, USAID PREDICT Project (of which ProMED was a participant) from 2009 to 2014. His book, Emerging Viruses (Oxford University Press) was selected by “American Scientist” for its list of “100 Top Science Books of the 20th Century.”
Dr. Maria Jacobs
We are pleased to present the 2018 ProMED-mail Awards for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet to one of our own, Dr. Maria Jacobs, who is our Senior Technical Editor.
The raw data that go into producing a ProMED report are often messy and error-laden. Maria and a team of copy editors take the raw material and, working with our team of subject matter expert moderators, craft and refine the posts that you receive by email, social media and on our website. Maria is a perfectionist and although our posts do not always achieve perfection, she works hard toward that goal. We try to make sure that case numbers, rates, dates, currencies, and other data make sense and are consistent. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, translations, URL links all need to be checked and validated. Maria maintains our Style Guide and strives to get the rest of the team to adhere to it. She does so with unfailing kindness, respect and wisdom.
Maria obtained an MD in her native Colombia. In 1984 she moved to Boston to continue her education and shortly after joined the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Maria became the International Society for Infectious Diseases’ (ISID) first full-time employee in 1988, as assistant to then Executive Director, Norman Stein. She was also scientific program coordinator for the International Congress on Infectious Diseases (ICID), and small grants manager, among other duties. In 1998, Maria moved to Zurich, Switzerland, but continued to collaborate with ISID in several capacities, including assistance during the ICID and translation of the 1st Spanish edition of “A Guide to Infection Control in the Hospital,” published in 2000. Between 2001 and 2004 Maria worked for ProMED-ESP as translator and copy editor. Maria has been ProMED’s Senior Technical Editor since 2007 and in 2018 is also collaborating with the ISID staff in the current edition of the “Guide to Infection Control in the Healthcare Setting.”
We are very grateful for her efforts on behalf of ProMED and are pleased to make this award to her.
Roland Hübner, Ph.D.
For the past 4 years, Dr. Hübner has voluntarily contributed significantly to ProMED’s reporting of arbovirus diseases. His contribution of reports during the chikungunya outbreak in the Americas has been particularly noteworthy and appreciated, when he sent in scores of articles daily at the peak of this epidemic. He continues to provide reports on arbovirus diseases and their epidemiologies. His extensive biological background has provided a strong base for his forwarded reports that are often accompanied by insightful comments. This award is in recognition of his contributions to ProMED-mail.
He is currently a Scientific expert for Belgium’s Superior Health Council, which advises the country’s health ministry. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Namur Belgium, in cytogenetics, and a PhD from Oxford University in the UK in mouse genetics. He also holds a Master’s degree in transfusion medicine. He had considerable research experience early on as a research assistant from 1987 – 1989 in the Laboratoire de Genetique et Physiologie Generalein the Facultes Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, Namur (Belgium), the Institut de Zoologie et d’Ecologie Animalein the Universite de Lausanne, Dorigny, Switzerland.
His postdoc work was titled “Human Capital and Mobility” and was one of the first EU-wide postdoc grants focused mainly on molecular and cellular biology, in both biochemistry and medical departments. Subsequently, he was a full time research associate in the Laboratoire de Biochimie, in the Centre d’Ingenierie des Proteines, in the Universite de Liege, Sart-Tilman, Belgium, in the Laboratorium voor Moleculaire Biotechnologie, and in the Laboratorium voor Anatomopathologie in the Universiteit Antwerpen, Wilrijk, Belgium
More recently, he has been a full time scientist in the Laboratoire RND1, ORAFTI addressing active food ingredients in Oreye (Belgium). Since January 2004 he has been serving as a full time scientific expert in the Superior Health Council, Federal Public Services – Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment Food Chain and Environment, Place Victor Horta 40/10, Brussels, Belgium.
 Volunteer translators and rapporteurs during the Korean MERS outbreak
We are very grateful to a group of individuals who helped us gather and translate early reports, many of which were available only in the Korean language, on the outbreak of MERS that occurred there beginning in May 2015. One senior US CDC official commented to me that ProMED was often the earliest and most up-to-date source of reliable information during the outbreak. ProMED, and the global public health community, owe a debt of gratitude to these volunteers.
University of California, San Diego
Researcher Assistant at the JW Lee Center for Global Medicine, Seoul
National University College of Medicine
Dong Yun Lee
Ajou University School of Medicine. Suwon, South Korea
University of California, Santa Cruz
Ewha Womans University, College of Nursing, Seoul
McGill University, Montreal
Seungju Jackie Oh
Washington University in St. Louis
Intern at Partners in Health
Georgetown University, BS, MS
Research Associate at the JW Lee Center for Global Medicine, Seoul
National University College of Medicine
 Joseph Wamala, ProMED-EAFR (Anglophone Africa) Moderator
We are pleased to announce this award to Joseph Francis Wamala, ProMED-EAFR (Anglophone Africa) Moderator [Mod.JFW], with the Ministry of Health, Kampala, Uganda. He has been a ProMED moderator since March 2009 and has posted more than 1400 outbreak reports — an average of 200 a year — from the media and personal experience of interest to ProMED subscribers concerned with outbreaks in English-speaking Africa. He was recently assigned by WHO to work in a refugee camp in South Sudan, where he has had to wear a bullet-proof vest and was evacuated more than once because of the civil war. Throughout this stressful period, he continued to report faithfully. His work for ProMED in these difficult circumstances deserves the highest praise, of which this award is a small token of appreciation.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Stephen Morse, and Jack Woodall
This year we are pleased to present the award to ProMED’s founders.
In 1994, these individuals had the foresight to recognize the growing importance of emerging biological threats. At the same time, they understood the potential of the Internet in detecting and communicating these threats. Finally, they realized the usefulness of “informal” sources of information, both inside and outside traditional health systems and the need for transparency in outbreak reporting. They collaborated to found ProMED-mail, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, and launch it as a network of only 40 members. This seed grew to encompass many thousands of individuals all over the world and to become a widely used and highly respected source of global public health epidemic intelligence. We are pleased to announce this award to Barbara, Steve and Jack during the 20th anniversary year of ProMED’s birth.
Susan Aman, Web Software Developer, HealthMap
There have been many improvements to the technology infrastructure of ProMED in the past several years, some visible to our participants and some only visible to the ProMED editors, moderators and staff. Sue has been instrumental in nearly all of these changes. You can see the improved design, usability and readability of our website, but equally important, she has worked to develop a workflow “dashboard” that streamlines and speeds the flow of reports so that we can process our work faster, more accurately, and more efficiently. Equally important are her people skills; she always understands the human factors that go into web design and workflow and responds quickly and with unfailing good humor to our numerous requests and comments.
ProMED is pleased to present this award to her in appreciation for her dedication and hard work.
Luiz Jacintho da Silva MD, ProMED-PORT Moderator (Mod.LJS).
Luiz Jacintho da Silva MD was Full Professor of Transmissible Diseases in the Department of Clinical Medicine of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Unicamp (University of Campinas), Sao Paulo, Brazil until 2011. He joined ProMED-mail in 1997 as the 1st moderator of the new ProMED Portuguese language list, focusing on outbreak news from Brazil, Portugal, and the Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa. This was ProMED’s 1st regional network and 1st service in a non-English language.
In the 16 years since then, he posted single-handedly more than 7000 outbreak reports, most of them with his expert commentary — far more than any other member of the ProMED team. He continued that level of productivity through changing responsibilities as chief of infectious diseases and later chief of all diseases for the state of Sao Paulo, and postings abroad as a member of the staff of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis. Since 2011 he has served as the Director of the Dengue Vaccine Initiative at the International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, South Korea.
His expertise and dedication to ProMED’s mission cannot be praised too highly, and ProMED is proud to present its Anniversary Award to him.
* deceased in 2013
Stephen Berger, MD
Steve is founder and medical advisor to GIDEON, an online database and decision support tool for global infectious diseases (http://www.gideononline.com).
Steve regularly sends background and commentary on ProMED’s emerging disease reports. In 2011 alone he has submitted nearly 50 such reports, and there are more than 600 reports from Steve in our database. These reports provide valuable background and contextual information for both our staff and readers.
From the GIDEON website:
Stephen Berger MD, founder & medical advisor
Dr Stephen A Berger, MD is currently affiliated with the Tel Aviv Medical Center as both director of geographic medicine and of clinical microbiology. He also serves as associate professor of medicine at the University of Tel-Aviv School of Medicine.
Dr Berger was educated at Brooklyn College in New York, where he received his BA and New York Medical College, where he received his MD and was an intern and resident in internal medicine. His postgraduate training included fellowships in infectious diseases at the Montefiore Hospital Center [New York], Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the New York VA [Veterans Affairs] Hospital.
In 1979, Dr Berger became a fellow of the American College of Physicians. He has been awarded the New York Medical College Teaching Award 5 times, and received the Certificate of Knowledge in Clinical Tropical Medicine from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 1998.
Dr Berger has published over 180 professional articles and books, including Introduction to Infectious Diseases and The Healthy Tourist. He is regarded as one of the foremost experts in his field, as evidenced by the his vast number of published articles, speaking engagements, professional appointments, and awards.
Since 1996, ProMED-mail has celebrated the anniversary of its founding (19 Aug 1994) by presenting the ProMED-mail Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet. This year, we are pleased to announce our winner, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7 (www.Animals24-7.org) , co-produced with his wife Beth, and frequent contributor to the pages of ProMED-mail.
Merritt Clifton has provided much background information with regard to the incidence and control of rabies virus infection in Asia, information and comment which has not been available from published sources. His contribution has been invaluable in this respect. Over 100 of his submissions on a wide variety of topics, since 1996, have been posted.
Merritt has also provided tremendous insights into cultural background and even behavioral explanations in many animal situations that have proven correct as well as explanatory for the situation at hand. He has a varied career, having traveled many places in the world in various capacities, from researcher to animal handler (feral cats). He is an astute observer of both animal and human behavior and a valuable research partner.
Recently (26 July 2010), a report submitted by Merritt Clifton to ProMED was covered by the New York Times:
“Rabies deaths are on the rise in Viet Nam, according to the country’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, whose director blamed slack management by provincial health authorities and public ignorance of the threat.
But subscribers to ProMED, a disease-outbreak Web site, have pointed out another contributing factor: in the mountainous rural northern provinces where the problem is worst, many people are fond of eating dogs.
Many Vietnamese refuse to eat vaccinated dogs, said Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, an animal protection magazine, because the only vaccines locally available are grown in sheep brains using an outdated method invented by Louis Pasteur. If improperly stored, those vaccines can give rabies to the dog, and in turn to the diner.”
Merritt has been a news reporter, editor, columnist, and foreign correspondent since 1968, specializing in animal and habitat-related coverage since 1978. He is a charter member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and a 4-time winner of national awards for investigative reporting. Founded in 2014, ANIMALS 24-7 continues the work of informing the international community of people who care about animals that Merritt conducted earlier in 22 years as editor of Animal People.
Since 1996, ProMED-mail has celebrated the anniversary of its founding (19 Aug 1994) by presenting the ProMED-mail Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet. ProMED-mail is pleased to announce that Sabine Zentis is the 2009 recipient of the award on the occasion of our 15th anniversary.
Sabine joined our reporting sources in May 2007, when she sent her 1st contribution to ProMED; this was an informal piece on BTV-8 in sentinel bovines in Germany’s North Rhine Westphalia, about which no official confirmation could be obtained at that time. Since then she has been continuously sending us information about animal and zoonotic diseases in Germany, Europe and elsewhere, particularly addressing issues for which no media reports were available. While the main subject she handled was, until the end of 2008, Bluetongue (Sabine is a cattle breeder), she also provided information on other diseases, including anthrax, brucellosis, cowpox, avian influenza, bovine tuberculosis, equine diseases, African swine fever, dioxin and melamine contaminated food products and others. She contacted laboratories, national and European agencies as well as NGOs (non-governmental agencies) on her own initiative, seeking epidemiological information as well as responding to our (frequent) requests — working days, evenings and weekends… All this, while demonstrating impressive understanding of the scientific value of her findings as well as a remarkable selective approach which meant refraining from redundancies and waste of time.
Since May 2007, 97 postings from Sabine Zentis have been circulated by ProMED. Additional pieces of information from Sabine were included in ProMED’s commentaries without officially crediting her.
ProMED Rapporteur Susan Baekeland
Susan Baekeland was born in England but has lived in many countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. She speaks several languages and has an extraordinary gift for observation of nature. Susan is a trained veterinarian but also has a keen interest in plants and agriculture in general and has generously supported veterinary work and agricultural research wherever she lived. In recognition of her work in support of parasitology research at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, she even had _Ewingana_ (_Doreyana_) _baekelandae_ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1644352, a new species of parasitic mite of molossid bats, named after her!
She joined up with ProMED-mail as a volunteer in 1996 and has contributed consistently to veterinary reporting since then. Last year (2007), she expanded her work to help with plant disease reporting and has since become a tremendous asset to ProMED-plant. She was recently given the honorary rank of ProMED Rapporteur.
In addition to supplying news items for ProMED-mail both from general sources and from direct observations in her region, she also provides translations, acts as an extension link with local veterinarians and farmers, runs an information service issuing regular multilingual summaries of all ProMED items to professionals mostly in France and UK, and has samples analyzed for clarification whenever there has been an outbreak of an undiagnosed plant or veterinary disease in her area.
Susan is a terrific person to work with; she is always positive and enthusiastic, and nothing is too much trouble for her. She spends several hours each day of the week on volunteer work for ProMED-mail and goes out of her way to support our service. This award is only a small way of thanking her for her tireless work and invaluable contribution over the past decade!
This year the editors and moderators of ProMED have selected an institute and two individuals to honor with this award for their outstanding contributions to internet outbreak reporting:
The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Insel Riems, Germany
Prof Thomas C. Mettenleiter, President of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Insel Riems, Germany, and his colleagues, have sent us a number of original reports during the current year on outbreaks of avian influenza and bluetongue in Germany. These provided expert information about, and clarification of, those episodes, direct from “the horse’s mouth”. This is an example that we wish more scientific institutions would follow, to make use of ProMED to disseminate to the world public health community and to our lay readers the facts about outbreaks, free of the journalistic errors that so often bedevil media reports.
ProMED applauds their initiative and extends by proxy the thanks of the international ProMED community.
Brent Barrett of the Indiana State Department of Health is a regular contributor, having sent in more than 300 outbreak items over the last 10 years. In recognition of this achievement he was this year designated an honorary ProMED-mail Rapporteur, but deserves further recognition for his long-time dedication to supplying ProMED with outbreak news. This is another example we would like to see followed by many more ProMED subscribers, particularly those in remote locations, where reports of local outbreaks may never reach the major newswires.
Joseph P. Dudley, Ph.D.
Joe Dudley is a Research Associate of the Institute of Arctic Biology- University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Museum. He has been an active correspondent of ProMED mail since 2002 and a frequent provider of media reports containing outbreak information who also contributes insightful analysis and commentary to go with them. He was recently elevated to the honorary rank of ProMED-mail Rapporteur. Joe joins the elite ranks of ProMED readers who regularly submit outbreak reports they find on the local news or the Internet to ProMED, an example to be emulated.
This year the editors and moderators of ProMED had a difficult time selecting from among many who have contributed greatly to the quality of outbreak reporting on the Internet. Two individuals this year have been selected for the ProMED-mail Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet:
Ilaria Capua, of Padova, Italy, is a veterinary virologist and outspoken advocate for the public disclosure of H5N1 sequence data. In a 9 Mar 2006 letter to ProMED-mail [20060309.0750], she wrote:
“It is important to closely monitor the occurrence of adaptive mutations and compare genetic sequences of viruses obtained in other parts of the world. The OIE/FAO Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie in Padova, Italy invites other scientists to follow the line of conduct of Italian, UK, French, Croatian and Slovenian veterinary virologists to deposit H5N1 sequences into public databases as soon as they are available and expresses its gratitude to governments that grant permission to deposit sequences.
This increased availability of information in a timely manner appears to be the only tool available to attempt to understand the genetic implications of interspecies transmission and mechanisms of viral evolution in a rapidly changing scenario.”
Transparency is one of ProMED’s core values, and we applaud Ilaria Capua’s efforts to further this cause.
Our second Award goes to Mary Marshall, outstanding volunteer rapporteur/web searcher for ProMED. Each day she scours the web, looking for official and unofficial reports on avian influenza and other outbreaks, and forwards these reports to ProMED. Since beginning her activities with us on 15 Jan 2004, her hard work has resulted in 503 actual posts to ProMED. Based in the UK, Mary Marshall is also a participant in the European Union-funded Foot & Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever Coordination Action, and has presented her work to FAO and other groups. Without dedicated individuals such as Mary Marshall, ProMED would not be able to function at the level our members have learned to expect.
By unanimous acclaim of our Editors and Moderators, this year our award recipient is an individual who prefers to remain anonymous. An outstanding rapporteur, we are all deeply appreciative of his efforts in discovering reports of emerging diseases around the world. He has made far more reports than any other individual in the past year and often uncover reports that no one else would have found. His efforts at uncovering reports concerning avian influenza have been particularly important.
While he prefers to continue his work anonymously, our rapporteur hopes that he will be an example to others who will help ProMED-mail in its mission of improving the reporting of emerging diseases.
Associate Editor Jack Woodall
Since 1996 ProMED-mail has celebrated its birthday by presenting awards for excellence in outbreak reporting. For this special 10th Anniversary Award, no one is more deserving of recognition than our own Jack Woodall. A founder of ProMED-mail, its driving force, and its repository of institutional history, Jack’s continued devotion and hard work inspire all of us.
“From the day that Jack called me to tell me what the Federation of American Scientists were hoping for, with Jack as the Don Quixote in all this, I was sure it would be a success. Remarkable in retrospect, in 1994 not many people had email, but Jack and I pooled all the email addresses we had (including cousins) and we started sending messages. These mostly were items clipped from newspapers, rumors we had heard, stories from TV and radio, etc. As the number of subscribers grew from a paltry few to tens, then hundreds, then thousands, now tens of thousands, the complexity of the system, the need to respond to people who had written to us, and the time it was taking me (8 or more hours per day, every day), were discouragements and I thought of bowing out. But then I would feel guilty at the thought of leaving so much more work for Jack, so I would get back at it again until gloominess overtook me again. Not Jack. He was always positive, always hopeful, always willing to stay up (all night, if necessary), always cheerful and positive. He made a great role model and I am very pleased that I stuck with it for so long. That Jack has stuck with it for 10 years is the prime reason for the success of this marvelous and very useful and educational idea. Great good luck to ProMED-mail in its next 10 years.”
— Charles H Calisher, PhD Professor, Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Colorado State University Ft. Collins, CO ()
In this year of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) we honor three ProMED-mail contributors who sent word of the new outbreak in China to ProMED on the fateful day of 10 February 2003, when the Western world first became aware of it.
Thanks to the initiative of these 3 people in sending the news to ProMED, the thousands of people from more than 150 countries who receive ProMED reports by e-mail, and thousands more who visit our website, were alerted to the new menace before any official report was published. ProMED relies on its readers to send in news of new outbreaks. Please do not hesitate to do so.
Stephen O. Cunnion, MD, PhD, MPH, International Consultants in Health, Inc., wrote:
“This morning I received this e-mail and then searched your archives and found nothing that pertained to it. Does anyone know anything about this problem?
‘Have you heard of an epidemic in Guangzhou? An acquaintance of mine from a teacher’s chat room lives there and reports that the hospitals there have been closed and people are dying.’ ”
This text was posted on ProMED as an RFI (Request for information).
Jesse Huang, of the State Health Department in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, found the news on a Chinese language website Boxun.com/, and had heard a similar report from his Chinese co-worker the day before. He told ProMED that Boxun reported on a poster from RenAi Hospital in Guangzhou dated 9 Feb 2003, exhorting all doctors and employees to fight the terrible disease, said to be a form of pneumonia.
Dan Silver, of Intellibridge Corporation, saw a report on the Guangzhou outbreak and ensuing panic in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao, a Chinese newspaper. He called Catherine Lexau of the Minnesota Department of Public Health, who referred him to ProMED-mail.
This year we honor three ProMED-mail contributors, two of whom also run websites covering outbreaks of particular diseases.
Pablo Nart, rapporteur extraordinaire, has contributed many reports since January 2001, of which we have posted 154 to date. Dr. Nart is a pathology resident in Veterinary Medicine at Glasgow University with research interest in virology. He received his MSc in International Animal Health from the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh.
Mike Meredith, Pig Disease Information Centre, UK, contributed daily updates throughout the UK foot-and-mouth epidemic, in spite of very severe financial problems. He provided regular informed comment as well as detailed news. Without him we would have been severely hampered in reporting this epidemic. See his website www.pighealth.com/
Steve Apatow, SMAMedia Communications, Humanitarian Resource Institute, picked up the slack for us during the FMD epidemic. Through his humanitarian website, he covered government responses, control protocols, and efficiency measures: all the nuts and bolts of proper disease control that were inappropriate for ProMED-mail postings but are absolutely vital for effective control. Without his active help a most important dimension would have been missing. We used his links to keep veterinarians and others better informed as improvements were — or were not — put in place. See his website www.humanitarian.net/
This year we honor two ProMED-mail contributors.
Martha Cosgriff began sending outbreak reports to ProMED-mail in March 1999. She wrote “I’ve always been interested in medicine, and my contributions are my way of participating by helping to disseminate information as rapidly as possible to the medical community.” She has since done this very successfully — ProMED-mail had posted over 500 of her reports up to the time she had to give up contributing for family reasons in June 2001. If a moderator had a question that needed researching on the web, or a report requiring follow up, Martha was always one of the people they could ask, and 9 times out of 10 she would come up with the answer. ProMED-mail wishes her all the very best for the future, and encourages subscribers to follow her example by sending in breaking reports of current outbreaks of emerging infectious disease.
Dr Shamsudeen Fagbo
Dr Shamsudeen Fagbo has become a valued contributor to ProMED-mail and was our main source of information on the outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Dr Fagbo took to heart our request to send information from the local news media, translating Arabic language publications and sending these translations to ProMED-mail. We are privileged to receive not only his translations, but also his insightful comments on local outbreaks. We would encourage other subscribers to take the same type of initiative in translating local news media reports into English for possible posting on ProMED-mail.
This year’s award is presented to two former ProMED-mail moderators.
Dr. Chan Yow Cheong (deceased)
Dr Chan Yow Cheong, Regional Moderator for Asia for ProMED-mail, passed away on 4 December 1999. He was an inspiration to all of us in ProMED-mail, and will be sorely missed.
Dr Chan Yow Cheong was former Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, National University of Singapore (NUS) and one time Vice-Dean in the Faculty of Medicine. He retired after working at the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, an affiliate of the NUS. As a virologist, he was one of the region’s best known experts on dengue and hantaviruses.
He discovered that he had liver carcinoma in July 1997. Few are aware that, during this difficult period, he undertook the task of being an active correspondent for ProMED-mail. With much enthusiasm, he provided the world with regular updates on exciting happenings in infectious diseases. In particular, he described the saga of the Nipah virus, a paramyxovirus that killed more than a hundred of those who were in close contact with infected pigs on farms and at the abattoir, mainly in Malaysia and a few in Singapore. Through his many contacts he succeeded in weaving exciting stories that often touched on political sensitivities. He believed in the truth both from conviction and as a true scientist.
— [Abridged from an obituary by Dr Yap Eu Hian (Dept of Microbiology, National University of Singapore), with contributions from Dr Ling Ai Ee (Virology Section, Dept of Pathology, Singapore General Hospital). 9 Dec 1999]
Dr. Charles H. Calisher
Dr Charles H. Calisher was long-time ProMED-mail Viral Diseases Moderator, Professor of Microbiology, Arthropod-borne and Infectious Disease Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA, and formerly at CDC. He bowed out in mid-2000 due to pressure of other commitments following his retirement. He had numerous fans among ProMED-mail readers. His colleagues had this to say about him:
“Charlie Calisher’s great gift was his ability to clarify issues. He asked the right questions at the right time. Then, he followed up with relentless, powerful logic. So, in the end, we all understood better what the choices really were. All this was done boldly, with great humor and an impatience for stupidity or pettiness. What more could we ask? Thanks for your contribution to world health.”
“He has been instrumental in getting correct information, clarifying information, cajoling and intimidating folks in appropriate places into giving appropriate responses, and producing smiles on many faces as they continue to attend what he called ‘Microbiology 601 on the Internet’.”
“He set standards and then reminded us what they should be, occasionally more than once. Sometimes this was uncomfortable but we were all better for it. A hard act to follow.”
“Charlie has a refreshing no-nonsense attitude when reporting and commenting about disease information. He also has a marvellous sense of humor, an attribute we can all appreciate.”
“He is a unique personality and one of the great arbovirologists. His inimitable style has helped to put ProMED-mail on the map.”
The 1999 ProMED-mail Award is shared by the following people and enterprises:
Dr Bernard Lown & SatelLife
SatelLife provided free e-mail list service to ProMED-mail when it launched, and has helped it through its formative years. ProMED-mail will always be grateful for their help.
Dr Barry Bloom & the Harvard School of Public Health
HSPH has kindly provided ProMED-mail with a home for its new list server and computer systems operator. ProMED-mail is proud to be associated with this world-renowned institution.
CEO Larry Ellison & the Oracle Corporation
Oracle has kindly donated the ProMED-mail list server and funds for start-up at HSPH, as well as providing ProMED-mail with a web server, located at their Reston, Virginia, USA facilities, and state-of-the-art web tools & assistance in building this new website. ProMED-mail is proud to be associated with this dynamic company.
Dr Joshua Lederberg
Dr Lederberg has shown an interest in ProMED-mail since its birth, and has acted as a godfather to it in many important ways. This Award is by way of a small token of appreciation.
This year’s award is presented to two special women who have contributed exceptionally to our mission of reporting outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases.
Dr. Tan Poh Tin
Pediatrician, of the University of Malaysia, Sarawak, participated in investigating the 1997 outbreak of enterovirus infections which caused at least 50 deaths in children in Sarawak. The government report on that epidemic had not yet been released when a similar outbreak with child fatalities appeared in Taiwan in 1998, and physicians there appealed on the Internet for information on diagnosis and treatment. At the very real risk of prosecution for divulging information before its official release, Dr Tan Poh Tin put public health before personal considerations, and posted on ProMED-mail details of 27 cases of the disease of which she had personal knowledge, with information on treatment.
Dr. Louise Martin
Veterinarian, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, participated in investigating the 1997-98 outbreak of Rift Valley fever in a remote area of Kenya. She spent Christmas 1997 in the field, and her reports of the initial and later stages of the epidemic investigations were posted on ProMED-mail. Locally she was not free of criticism for doing this, even though it engendered great support globally. She was another who put public health before personal considerations.
Tragically, Louise was killed on 7 August 1998 in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
Many ProMED-mail subscribers send in outbreak reports they see in the media or find on other Internet lists. But some people go beyond this and actively scour the Internet for recent news of emerging infectious diseases, or otherwise render special services. In particular, ProMED-mail salutes the following:
ProMED-mail Special Correspondent, for her readiness to make searches on request for updates on outbreaks
ProMED-mail Special Correspondent, for his data-mining for cases of imported infections
translator, for following the Latin American press and translating articles from Spanish
computer programmer, for his tireless assistance in correcting mistakes in the archives
of GIDEON, for his differential diagnoses of unusual syndromes and for providing background data on disease agents.
It’s people like you who add value to ProMED-mail, and we salute you!
First ProMED-mail Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet, presented on 19 August 1996:
Until the early spring of this year, the international concerns with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United Kingdom had been essentially scientific, enlivened by a few individuals with alarmist views. But with the release of the UK SEAC report in March that indicated a possible relationship between the 10 new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) cases and BSE, everything changed overnight. In those subsequent weeks of journalistic frenzy and ever more reactive government actions and ministerial statements, one person above all provided a source of calm information, ever ready to answer questions and to bring together information from many diverse sources. ProMED-mail wishes to recognize
J. Ralph Blanchfield
for the truly outstanding work that he did day after day, week after week, to keep the world informed and to steady everyone by providing up-to-date information and balanced views. ProMED-mail frequently referred questions to him, and is extremely grateful for his help, given so freely and readily. Without him the few other calm voices would have been overwhelmed and drowned in the tidal wave of reaction to the SEAC hypothesis.
Therefore the Moderators & Committee Members of ProMED-mail take great pleasure in awarding to Ralph, on the occasion of ProMED-mail’s second birthday, the First ProMED-mail Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet.