Member Award Reports

AEA Mid-Career Travel Award 2019 - Eric Chow

Associate Professor Eric Chow, Monash University and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre

I would like to take the opportunity to thanks the Australasian Epidemiological Association for this Mid-Career Travel Award. My research focuses on prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections (STI), with a strong interest in gonorrhoea, syphilis and human papillomavirus (HPV). 

The AEA Mid-Career Travel Award allowed me to attend and present my research at the STI & HIV 2019 World Congress in Vancouver, Canada, on the 14th to 17th of July 2019. It was a joint conference of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research (ISSTDR) and the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI). The joint IUSTI and ISSTD conferences are one of the largest international HIV/STI conferences every 2 years. There were more 1,000 delegates represented by more than 50 countries attending the STI & HIV 2019 World Congress in Vancouver.

I had one oral presentation entitled “Oropharyngeal and genital gonorrhoea among heterosexuals who report sexual contact with partners with gonorrhoea”. The current STI screening guidelines do not recommend oropharyngeal swab for gonorrhoea among heterosexuals but my work has demonstrated that a substantial proportion of heterosexuals reporting contact with sexual partners with gonorrhoea were only tested positive in the oropharynx but not the genital. The full paper is now published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001068).

I also presented five posters at the conference.

  1. Use of doxycycline prophylaxis again STI among gay and bisexual men taking pre-exposure prophylaxis in Melbourne (full paper is published in the Lancet HIV. doi: 1016/S2352-3018(19)30186-9)
  2. Prevalence of HPV in teenage heterosexual males after the introduction of the gender-neutral vaccination program in Australia (full paper is published in Vaccine. doi: 1016/j.vaccine.2019.09.052)
  3. Low prevalence of high-risk anal HPV in young gay and bisexual males after the universal HPV vaccination program in Australia
  4. Do sexual practices differ by age among gay and bisexual men? A cross-sectional study in Melbourne, Australia
  5. Patterns of group sex activity among gay and bisexual men in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, 2013-2018

Furthermore, I also participated in a Twitter campaign called #FaceOfAnSTI at the conference. This campaign aimed to reduce the stigma of STI by getting people to upload a photo of your face with a giant STI and talk about STI openly.

After the conference, I then travelled to Hong Kong to meet my collaborator Assistant Professor Edmond Choi (The University of Hong Kong) to discuss potential projects. I also gave a presentation entitled “How to write a successful grant/award application” at the School of Nursing, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong. This presentation aimed to provide tips on writing grant and award applications to students and staff.

In summary, I am very grateful to the Australasian Epidemiological Association for the Mid-Career Award which provided me with an opportunity to present my research and meet international researchers.

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Left to right: Mr Andrew Law (The University of Melbourne), Associate Professor Eric Chow (Monash University & Melbourne Sexual Health Centre), Professor Christian Hoebe (Maastricht University)

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Presentation at the University of Hong Kong.

AEA Early Career Travel Award 2019 - Jocelyn Chan

Jocelyn ChanI was fortunate to be awarded an AEA Early Career Travel Award last year, which supported me to attend a short course at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on the epidemiological evaluations of vaccines. The interactive and informative course covered a wide variety of topics related to immunisation including immunology, clinical trials, surveillance, dynamic modelling, policy and vaccine hesitancy.

As part of my PhD, I have been working on a dynamic model to understand the determinants of herd immunity to pneumococcal vaccines within three contrasting countries in the Asia Pacific (Laos, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea). While in London, I presented interim results to a group of researchers at the LSHTM with extensive experience with pneumococcal disease modelling and received useful feedback to refine and improve my work.

I also had opportunity to accompany my PhD supervisors to attend meetings at Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and at the World Health Organization in Geneva, where I presented interim PhD findings. Attending such meetings was helpful to better understand the ways in which researchers and policy makers can collaborate to enable useful policy-relevant research. I’d like to thank the AEA for this wonderful opportunity to expand my research skills, experience and networks.

Early-Career Travel Award 2019 - Adrian Marcato

31A912B6 FA81 42A6 B20C F389A0A64F66APPRISE researcher goes global with outbreak preparedness at the World Health Organization

APPRISE PhD scholar Adrian Marcato’s schedule at WHO HQ had it all – live updates of current outbreaks, strategic preparedness meetings and protocols to kick-start early studies in future flu pandemics…and then there was the food.

My internship at the World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters in Geneva was truly a period of great learning and personal development. The internship spanned 16 weeks under the supervision of Dr Isabel Bergeri of the Global Influenza Program (GIP) within the Infectious Hazard Management Department.

The main objective was to provide support for the development of Pandemic Special Studies (PSS) protocols. These are crucial for early responses to influenza pandemics and included protocols for:

  • rapid assessment of the First Few Hundred/X cases of pandemic influenza and their close contacts
  • a household transmission study for pandemic influenza cases and their household contacts
  • a closed setting transmission study for pandemic influenza cases and their close contacts.

The overall aim of PSS protocols is to gain an early understanding of some of the key clinical, epidemiological and virological characteristics of the first cases of pandemic influenza, to help guide public health response. Helping to prepare these protocols greatly expanded my technical knowledge. The protocols I contributed to have now been adapted for COVID-19 early investigations and are available at:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/early-investigations

During my trip, I gained invaluable insights into the daily functions of the GIP as well as WHO as a whole. Attending meetings was a great window into global outbreak preparedness and I was able to observe meetings on Influenza Preparedness and Response between the teams at headquarters and the regional offices, a live update on the Ebola crisis in the Strategic Health Operations Centre and many more.
I also joined the WHO HQ Intern Board as the communications coordinator, where I was responsible for running social media pages and assisting with day-to-day communications to Intern Board members. In my position on the intern board, we were involved with conversations with Human Resources and the Director-General about the introduction of stipends in 2020 and discussing the implications of this on intern welfare.

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The flu protocols Adrian developed have been rapidly modified for case follow up of COVID-19 household contacts to increase our understanding of the current pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AEA Early-Career Travel Award 2019 - Eleanor Neal

image003The AEA Early-Career Travel Award provided financial support for me to attend the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) intensive course on Epidemiological Evaluation of Vaccines: Efficacy, Safety, and Policy. The course provided training in advanced epidemiological tools for vaccine evaluation, including methods of evaluation in resource poor settings, where comparatively little administrative data are available. I learnt essential methods specific to vaccine epidemiology, which will enable a career in infectious disease epidemiology and vaccine preventable diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

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