P³ | Nr. 4 - Spring 2017

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Dossier: Studying at ITM Sick while travelling “Hello, hello, this is Ulaanbaatar calling”

Nannozi Beatrice Kasirye

Vet against all odds | P³ | No. 4 - Spring 2017




publisher-in-charge Bruno Gryseels

Dear reader,

editor in chief Roeland Scholtalbers editorial coordination Eline Van Meervenne editorial committee Ildikó Bokros Roeland Scholtalbers Mieke Stevens Nico Van Aerde Eline Van Meervenne Marc Vandenbruaene Maria Zolfo layout & photography Stefan De Pauw translations Serv-U and Wilkens C.S. contact communicatie@itg.be +32 (0)3 247 07 29

Since ITM was established in 1906, education is one of the core businesses of the Institute. For the fourth edition of P³ we put education at ITM in the spotlights. We will give the floor to Beatrice, a veterinarian who is specializing in tropical veterinary through the brand new Master-programme at ITM and the South-African University of Pretoria. Our programme coordinators talk about the growing importance of innovation and interaction in educational programmes. Two ITM PhDstudents elaborate about their PhD and the travel between their home and Antwerp. We also take a look at the rich history of the Tropical Medicine postgraduate course. Besides education Lieve Casier gives us a sneak peek into the world of international shipments. Also in the surroundings of ITM the Pokémon craze was present. We found out which Pokémon is the most captured in the Nationalestraat.

We wish you a lot of reading pleasure! The editorial committee

*P³ - ITM’s essence captured in one letter Our innovative and interdisciplinary research focuses on Pathogens (Department of Biomedical Sciences), Patients (Department of Clinical Sciences) and Populations (Department of Public Health). ITM researchers improve our understanding of tropical diseases, and develop better methods for their diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Others study the organisation and management of health care and disease control in regions where means are limited, but needs are huge. We also focus on the health of animals and the diseases they spread to humans.

© The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express consent of the publisher. Images in this report were taken with full understanding, participation and permission of the people portrayed. The images truthfully represent the depicted situation and are used to improve public understanding of our work.

Colofon verantwoordelijke uitgever Bruno Gryseels


ITM and I: Réginald Moreels


hoofdredacteur Roeland Scholtalbers

Beste lezer,

Al vanaf 1906, sinds het ITG werd opgestart, is onderwijs één van de kernactiviteiten van het Instituut. In deze vierde editie van P³ zetten we onderwijs aan het ITG in de spotlight. Onderwijs is al sinds dag 1, in het verre 1906, een kernactiviteit van het Instituut.

redactionele coördinatie Eline Van Meervenne

Master of Science in Public Health four times excellent


A short history of ITM’s postgraduate training in tropical medicine

redactiecomité Ildikó Bokros Roeland Scholtalbers Mieke Stevens Nico Van Aerde Eline Van Meervenne Marc Vandenbruaene Maria Zolfo

Sick while travelling



lay-out & fotografie Stefan De Pauw vertalingen Serv-U en Wilkens C.S.

We geven het woord aan Beatrice een dierenarts die zich specialiseert in tropische diergeneeskunde via het kersverse Master-programma van het ITG en de Zuid-Afrikaanse Universiteit van Pretoria. Onze onderwijscoördinatoren vertellen over het groeiende belang van innovatie en interactie in onderwijsprogramma’s. Twee ITG-doctoraatsstudenten weiden uit over hun doctoraat waarbij ze de nodige kilometers. Ook duiken we in de rijke geschiedenis van het postgraduaat in Tropische Geneeskunde. Two work better than one, even for a PhD


Maar we gaan ruimer dan enkel onderwijs. Lieve Casier geeft ons een kijkje in de wereld van de in internationale verzendingen. Ook de buurt rondom het ITG werd niet gespaard van de Pokémon Go-rage. We zochten uit welke Pokémon het meeste gevangen wordt in de Nationalestraat. Dossier: Studying at ITM

Vet against all odds



contact communicatie@itg.be +32 (0)3 247 07 29

Portrait: Lieve Casier


From ‘chalk and talk’ to ‘touch and learn’


The ITM number


Minister De Croo visits ITM


Veel leesplezier! Het redactieteam

*P³ - de kern van het ITG in één letter Ons innovatief en interdisciplinair onderzoek gaat uit van Pathogenen (Departement Biomedische Wetenschappen), Patiënten (Departement Klinische Wetenschappen) en Populaties (Departement Volksgezondheid). ITG-onderzoekers werken aan een beter begrip van tropische ziekten en ontwikkelen hiervoor verbeterde diagnose-, behandelings- en preventiemethoden. Anderen bestuderen de organisatie en het management van de gezondheidszorg en ziektebestrijding in regio’s waar de nood hoog is maar de middelen beperkt zijn. We focussen ook op de gezondheid van dieren en bestuderen daarbij vooral ziektes die op de mens overdraagbaar zijn.

the itm number

Last summer, the online game “Pokémon Go” dominated the world. The neighbourhood around ITM wasn’t spared from the Pokémon Go madness either. The most frequent Po­kémon to appear in the Nationalestraat in Antwerp is Rattata. You have a 22.6% chance to spot this Pokémon. At number two stands Pokémon Ridgey with 21.1% chance of cat­ching him around the ITM buildings.*

*Source: www.finder.com


Studying at ITM Education has been a core activity of ITM from the start. Annually more than 500 health professionals from around the world study at the Institute. They specialise in biomedical and clinical sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and a wide range of social sciences. Students can develop their career path in line with their own needs and interests. The exchange of experiences and open discussions between students from diverse backgrounds and professors are key to ITM’s academic set-up ITM offers graduate programmes in public health and tropical animal health, postgraduate courses in tropical medicine and international health and a variety of short courses. In addition, more than 100 students carry out their PhD research at the Institute

Our courses Two masterprogrammes in Public Health and Tropical Animal Health Two postgraduate courses in tropical medicine and international health for masters and bachelors and a series of short courses Over 100 researchers working on their PhD at ITM.


Vet against all odds Ildikó Bokros

“[Girls] know that education is their only path to self-sufficiency. It is their only chance to shape their own fate rather than having the limits of their lives dictated to them by others.” (Michelle Obama)

Few children choose to set off for boarding school at the tender age of ten: Ugandan student Nannozi Beatrice Kasirye was such a child. Realising that a good education will help her avoid farm work, she was determined to excel in school so that eventually she can get a job in a “nice city with lights”. Beatrice grew up in a small village in central Uganda called Kayini. Currently, she is completing a master-after-master programme in tropical animal health at ITM; a degree that will enable her to work in a laboratory and carry out research. The path to Antwerp has proved to be a long and winding road. Her parents were both teachers but her father was forced to give up his profession, as farming provided a better income. Being a person who appreciated the value of education, he did everything he possibly could to make sure his seven children attended good schools, despite the societal pressure to limit the money he spent on the five girls.“We live in a society where men are obliged to financially support their family and immediate relatives,” explains Beatrice. “They monitor their wives’ incomes and have the final say in how the money is spent. As a result, people think a girl is either supposed to be groomed for marriage or should go for low-paying jobs like sewing or wor­ king in a beauty salon, or at best obtain a certificate. P³ | 6

After all, they will get married, all of their money will be controlled by a man, and little will be taken back home to her relatives.” Beatrice completed her secondary school and star­ ted a bachelor programme in veterinary medicine at Makerere University in 2005, where only a quarter of her class were female. Stigmas surrounding the course were abundant, such as “female vets never find husbands because most of the men fear them”; or “girls are too weak to handle the workload of the course and often do not finish it within the compulsory five-year period”. In Uganda people tend to associate veterinary medicine with the treatment of cattle and they believe girls are unable to handle bulls, so they will easily be outcompeted by boys.” But Beatrice Kasirye stood her ground. After gra­ duation she started working for an NGO called BRAC (Building Resources across Communities), on the Livestock and Poultry Project. She was car-

dossier rying out clinical work and advisory services for farm management practices, like feeding and deworming. This job presented its own challenges and growing a thick skin became a must. Poultry farmers were mostly women and the majority had never worked with a female vet before; each time felt like she was undergoing an exam and Beatrice had to win their trust over and over again. “Musawo aliwa?” (“Where is the vet?”) was a phrase that Beatrice heard all too often, from the mouths of male cattle farmers who almost expected her to fail when handling their animals as the farms were not equipped with a crush (a strongly built stall or cage for holding livestock safely while they are examined). “If this job taught me anything, it was that whatever I do as a vet, I had to give it my utmost best,” reflects Beatrice. Three years ago Beatrice left the non-profit world and became a state employee: she is currently a vet inspector at Entebbe international airport, the principal airport of Uganda, where a rush job is common daily practice due to strict flight sche­dules. After having worked in positions that required practicing for some time, she became interested in epidemiology and realised she wanted to delve into research and laboratory work. This, however, required getting a second degree; one that would provide real lab work experience. She allowed herself a year to find a suitable programme that was flexible so that she could keep on working and look after her newborn son; and to find a scholarship that could cover her costs.

So she began gathering her papers and saving money. One day, a colleague forwarded her some information on the Master in Tropical Animal Health programme, a collaborative degree between ITM and the University of Pretoria. The course was everything she needed; it combines online and face-to-face training, the latter including hands-on laboratory work. She applied, and in November 2015 she received the good news: her application was successful! Since early September, Beatrice has been living in Antwerp, a city she calls mind-blowingly beautiful. Despite the challenges, she has full support of her immediate family. To make the most of her time, she fully immersed herself in coursework. The programme follows an integrated One Health approach, an aspect that, Beatrice feels, has been ignored in disease control for decades. One Health stresses the importance of collaboration among scientists from multiple disciplines and Beatrice herself gained a better appreciation of this concept through the course. “Though it may seem obvious that various professionals would work together, unfortunately it does not happen often,” she says. “If it did, we could all be much more efficient in our jobs.” So what is Beatrice looking forward to the most? Getting her degree and being reunited with her two-year-old son.

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photo story

Minister of Development Cooperation De Croo visits ITM “Whenever health issues come up in my discussions, the Institute of Tropical Medicine gets a positive mention,” said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo when he visited the Institute in November 2016. Nico Van Aerde


ince 1998, ITM runs a capacity building pro­ gramme in developing countries with support of the Belgian Directorate-General for Development (DGD). 2017 marks the start of a new five year ITM-DGD framework agreement, with institutional capacity building programmes in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, DRC, Ethiopia, Guinea (new), Peru, South Africa and Vietnam. The Institute will also work with a range of other partner institutes in a global alliance on education and exchange. Many of these partners have benefited over the years from our “Switching the Poles” programme. During De Croo’s visit our colleagues presented the Institute’s sleeping sickness research and control activities, as Belgium has made a longstanding contribution to the fight against this neglected disease. The Minister also met students from different courses who presented their background and experiences in Antwerp. Prof. Lut Lynen briefly introduced the educational concepts of ITM and the “blending” of face-to-face and e-learning, as well as he mutual enrichment of students and teachers were discussed.

P³ | 8

photo story

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From ‘chalk and talk’ to ‘touch and learn’ Jan Kennis

The time when education was mainly about knowledge transfer, without much student interaction, is definitely past. Flexible educational programmes that focus on dialogue and mutual learning and use online technology, are becoming the standard. Our education coordinators explain how in a rapidly changing world the ITM curriculum responds to an international, diverse and experienced student audience.

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“Student-centred education is the new standard”

Govert van Heusden, Academic Coordinator

ITM students are experienced professionals from the global health sector. Education is a continuous training with interactive and collaborative learning being its basic principles. The learning tasks and teaching methods of all ITM courses offer plenty of variety. Where possible and useful, master’s programmes have a flexible structure to fit in with the student’s personal learning path. Knowledge transfer takes place in advance, through online learning. As a result, an important part of our programme is devoted to highly-valued discussions and interactions with key experts. Individual and group assignments are closely linked to the lives of the participants. While in training, students formulate problems and can work out solutions that apply to their specific work environment. This kind of education can easily link in with current problems or respond to major events such as the Ebola epidemic, the problem of antibiotic resistance in a world of climate change and the emergence of new health problems and diseases. A rapidly changing world stresses the importance of flexible and student-centred education.

“Three innovations in one joint master’s programme with the University of Pretoria” The “Tropical Animal Health” master-after-master programme (60 credits) has been thoroughly reformed by joining up with the University of Pretoria (first innovation), a partner institute from South Africa. Previously there were two majors, now there is one programme offering extensive choices (second innovation). The course can be spread over two years and more than half of the credits can be obtained through distance learning (third innovation). Time ‘away from home’ is only a few months. It is important that students can be in Antwerp or in Pretoria as living and studying in different environments help develop a broader outlook on their own world. The preparation process for this cooperation took more than two years and was very instructive. We looked at all aspects from A to Z. During this reform period, all master’s courses of the ITM were successfully reaccredited. A joint master’s programme between a European and an African higher education institution in which distance learning is a key component, is an excellent example for the future.

Mieke Stevens, Education Coordinator, Department of Biomedical Sciences

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“An educational alliance with our partners in the South”

Marjan Pirard, Education Coordinator, Department of Public Health

With the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation we are setting up an educational alliance with our academic partners in the South. We want to focus on strengthening generic and research skills of students and on joint development of distance education. Partners will be able to learn from each other through an exchange of academic and other staff involved in educational and quality assurance. We would like various institutions from the South to work with us on specific projects of quality assurance and improve teacher professio­ nalism. The cooperation will also give added value to the education at ITM, for example through guest lecturers, the organisation of research and practical internships for our students at partner institutions. Collaboration between Belgian universities and academic partners in the South in the same countries, would certainly be a plus for this alliance.

“Technology and content: a good marriage!” Dennis Sinyolo, a Zimbabwean pedagogue, articulated the needed evolution in education as follows: from “chalk and talk” to “touch and learn.” He thus supports the transition, also in Africa, to a more mixed, interactive learning model, in which the use of technology is central. Information and communication technology makes for interactive and attractive lessons and preparation work through quizzes, video and audio recordings, discussion forums or social media. As more and more students use a smartphone, mobile learning will play an increasingly important role. Contrary to what is sometimes thought, our colleagues in the South are well in touch with the digital revolution. ITM aims to maximise the use of appropriate techno­ logies, accessible anywhere in the world. All new specialised short courses have been systematically developed to include a combination of online and face-to-face learning. In addition, technology allows us to keep in touch with students outside the classroom, both during the course and once it ended, as shown by our “communities of practice” and our alumni association.

Maria Zolfo, Education Coordinator, Department of Clinical Sciences

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Two work better than one, even for a PhD Roeland Scholtalbers

More than 100 researchers work on their PhD at ITM at any given time. PÂł talked to Shahab and Vera, talented researchers from Bangladesh and Germany, who participate in two innovative PhD programmes. Although ITM is their base, they also work on their thesis at other institutions.

13 | PÂł


The world is changing rapidly and so are students. Distances between continents are ever more easily bridged and wherever you are, a mine of information on any topic is just a click away. We are all interconnected and academic programmes are tapping into this trend, which is right up the sleeve of ambitious people such as Vera Kühne and A.S.M. Shahabuddin, or simply Shahab.


era is an accomplished biologist who star­ted her career in the German city of Tü­bingen. From the start, she gained a re­putation in the diagnosis of neglected tropical diseases. Next to her sits Bengali researcher Shahab, who came across ITM when he was studying for his master’s degree in public health at the ULB in Brussels. Together with 14 PhD students Vera carries out her research within the Euroleishnet Marie Sklodowska-Curie innovative training network (ITN), funded by the European Union and works alternately

P³ | 14

in an academic institution and a company. In this way Euroleish links academic research and practical applications for leishmaniasis, a neglected disease also known as black fever. “I work on an improved rapid test for use in countries where the disease is endemic, such as Ethiopia, where we work with the University of Gondar.” Vera is doing her PhD at the ITM, but will spend six months in picturesque Gembloux, where she will carry out research at the Walloon Coris BioConcept company. She will return to Ethiopia at some stage



hahab is one of eight lucky investigators who in 2013 got accepted for the highly compe­ titive Erasmus Mundus Transglobal Health PhD programme. The aim is to make researchers look beyond the boundaries of specific disciplines at major health challenges in developing countries. Shahab is working on “pregnancy among young people”, a big problem in Bangladesh, mainly because of the many child marriages. “The risks of pregnancy are much greater in adolescents. Young women often do not find the road to care, not even when they have to give birth,” says Shabab, who included NGOs and people from the community in his research studies. “By doing it this way, women will also benefit. Besides researcher I am first and foremost an advocate for better health in my country.” Doctoral students in the Trans Global Health programme do not only work trans-disciplinary. They cross borders and have the opportunity of obtaining a degree from two academic institutions. Shahab even has the luxury of three supervisors: at ITM, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and ISGlobal in Barcelona. “ITM is a specialised institution where promoters dedicate much time and effort to accom-

panying their students. I consider myself lucky to be guided by Prof. Vincent De Brouwere. He has a wealth of experience in mother and child health.” Vera agrees and points to the ease of contact in a medium-sized institution such as ITM. “Researchers take the time to catch up during coffee break. We also meet regularly with everyone who works on leishmaniasis: clinicians, biomedical scientists, epidemiologists. The countless expertise in this institute is just amazing.” Although Vera looks for suitable antigens in the lab and Shahab goes into the field with pen and paper, these two young researchers have more in common than you might think. They radiate the same passion when talking about their research, their ambition and their motivation to contribute to better health. Shahab will defend his thesis in the first quarter of 2017. Vera must still carry out one more year of research. Then the world will be at their feet. When we ask them where they would like to go and work, they simultaneously say “wherever our expertise may come in handy.” Good luck Vera and Shahab!

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Master of Science in Public Health four times excellent On 22 August 2016, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) awarded an excellent assessment to ITM for the master-after-master training programme ‘Master of Science in Public Health’. This excellent assessment on all four examined accounts is fairly unique and indicates that the education is of an exceptionally high level.


Roeland Scholtalbers

he first batch of students of our one-year Master in Public Health (MPH) programme graduated more than 50 years ago. The programme targets experienced healthcare professio­ nals and scientists from all over the world. In half a century, we have trained thousands of health specialists who act as agents of change, with the ability to improve standards and practice in remote and urban areas around the world. The MPH students specialise either in disease control, health systems management and policy or international health. The latter is a flexible orientation which ties in with tropEd, an international network of institutions for higher education in international health. NVAO assessed the MPH course on its objectives, processes, outcomes and level of quality assurance, P³ | 16

attributing an excellent score on all four accounts. According to the accreditation organisation, this means the course is to be considered an international example of best practice. The international assessment panel was of the opinion that the curriculum is well-designed, challenging, but with plenty of support for the students in a coherent and stimulating learning environment, and with excellent facilities. Moreover, they said that the education is provided by top-rated scientists with a wealth of international field experience. An excellent assessment does not mean that the Institute will rest on its laurels. To keep pace with a rapidly changing world, we will keep on improving our MPH programme, providing more flexibility, introducing innovative teaching and learning me­ thods and establishing a collaboration with public health institutions in the Global South.


The impact of our MPH course is best captured by our students. P³ talked to Kizito, Ramnath and Rita

Ramnath Ballala, India, MPH Health Systems Management and Policy, 2013-2014

“The interactive way of studying was unlike anything I had experienced before. I was so sur­ prised when a professor told me ”that’s a good question” for the first time in my life. The MPH opened my eyes and provided me with a whole new lens to look at health systems. Health care delivery is not just biomedical, but a complex mixture of biomedical and psychosocial elements. In my current job I look at appropriate technologies in health and the health energy (decentralised renewable energy) nexus for a resilient primary health care delivery.”

Kizito Mosema, DRC, MPH International Health, started in 2016

“As a pediatrician in a busy Kinshasa hospital, I have a very demanding, fast-paced job. When I decided to get a Master’s degree in public health, the flexibility ITM offered was crucial for me.

I was familiar with the Institute itself, as I had participated in the Electronic Short Course of Antiretroviral Treatment (eSCART) in 2013, of which I am a facilitator since graduation. The MPH International Health orientation that I am currently undertaking is a relatively new course, and it is organised in collaboration with other institutions. This will allow me to study in Norway for a few months next year, and I am really looking forward to broadening my horizons even more.”

Rita Zawora Yao Zizien, Burkina Faso, MPH Disease Control, started in 2016

“I started my career in a private hospital but later moved to the public system in order to grow professionally. I am currently the head of a district hospital in a town about 130 km from the capital, where I combine clinical work with management. I am currently an MPH student at ITM where I enrolled in the Disease Control orientation to gain more in-depth knowledge on sexual and reproductive health programmes that will come in useful for my work. Acqui­ ring an MPH degree will enable me to get more opportunities in my country and to be able to work in a bigger city.”

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<< rewind

A short history of ITM’s postgraduate training in tropical medicine Eline Van Meervenne

ITM welcomes annually about 130 doctors and nurses who want to specialise in tropical medicine. This training is as old as ITM itself and evolved from a course for doctors going to work in the former Belgian Congo to two postgraduate courses for health professionals from across Europe and beyond.


oday, ITM offers two postgraduate courses in tropical medicine for health professionals (and others with experience in the health sector) with a master’s or a bachelor’s degree. These students either just graduated or have several years of work experience. During the course, they get further acquainted with infectious diseases, the organisation of health systems and international health, including disease control, resources ma­ nagement, the organisation of care and some social aspects specific to the South. Colonialists and missionaries in the Belgian Congo often came across diseases unknown in Europe. There was a strong need to train doctors and nurses in tropical medicine. The Institute was founded in 1906 as the School for Tropical Medicine. Other

European countries with colonies set up similar institutions. At first, there was one course for doctors where the basics of tropical diseases were outlined. Later, this course also took in nurses, assistant vets and health officials. In the 1950s, the then director Rhodain asked to step up scientific and educational activities in Congo. When the Lovanium university opened in Leopoldville, professors from ITM went to teach there.

The consequences of the decolonisation In 1960, Congo became independent and the demand for colonial physicians suddenly disappeared. As a result, registrations for tropical medicine courses dropped sharply. A thorough reform in P³ | 18

education was deemed essential. Thereafter, courses no longer focussed on health issues in Congo but in all southern countries and responded to the needs broached by the World Health Organization. Students were less willing to spend their entire career in the South but opted for shorter stays. The duration of training in tropical medicine was shortened and ITM’s academic programme offered several elective courses.

for international organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and other non-governmental organisations. Even today these courses in tropical medicine are for many students a stepping stone to an international career in the health sector. But recent events have added other motives. Students wor­ king as a doctor or nurse in major European cities are presently confronted with infectious diseases

In 1980 and 1986 the number of registrations for postgraduate courses for both doctors and nur­ ses reached record levels again. ITM was one of the few institutions in Europe which offered these courses. In the ‘80s about half of the doctors and nurses who graduated from ITM worked abroad

such as tuberculosis and other health problems related to urban poverty, often (but not always) related to migration. Topics such as public health and organisation of care, part of ITM’s curriculum, are therefore a great help in their day to day work.

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Lieve Casier 25 years of international shipments Roeland Scholtalbers

“Hello, hello, this is Ulaanbaatar calling”


he outside temperature is near freezing point, but the large crate in front of the window patiently awaits shipment to warmer climates. “Gondar, Ethiopia” reads the blue label on the side of the chest. A stack of boxes, destined for Congo, is nicely piled up on the other side of the room. Welcome to the world of Lieve Casier, responsible for shipping and import in the purchasing unit of ITM.

Ever more shipments For almost 25 years now, Lieve has been shipping a wide range of samples, and testing and laboratory equipment in and out of the ITM port. All of these years she assured the smooth delivery of at least 50,000 shipments. The DHL phone number is stuck on the edge of her computer screen. A group photo with African colleagues brightens up her desk. “When I started here in the early 90s, we dealt with about 250 shipments annually, of which 50 as big as the crate for Ethiopia standing in the corner over there.”

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Since then, however, the Institute has expanded considerably, which is translated in the number of shipments. “Currently, about 1,000 parcels, large and small, leave the ITM annually, including at least one hundred large crates. Fortunately, I do not have to handle all of this on my own. My colleague Jessy (De Sager ed.) is on hand to help me out and without her, I could not manage, “ she says, pointing to her colleague who is just then taking delivery of a parcel from a courier. Her other colleagues from the purchasing unit regularly lend her a helping hand

Pipettes, ethanol and patients’ samples Pipettes, ethanol, refrigerators, tuberculosis, HIV and a variety of other samples depart from and arrive at ITM under Lieve’s watchful eye. Every two years, she attends a certified IATA training (International Aviation Association) to keep up with current regulations. “Proactivity is basically the key to carrying out my job efficiently. I have a good contact with the researchers in the South and in the East who are the ones receiving a considerable number of our shipments. Many of them

portrait even come to say hello when they are in Antwerp. I carefully go over all the details in advance with the agents at Brussels Airport and at the destination. “ A complex cargo of potentially hazardous material can sometimes go wrong. Fortunately, Lieve can count the failed shipments on the fingers of one hand. “It is terrible if I have to tell my colleagues that something has gone wrong even though I am in no way to blame for these errors. For example, I sent test kits on dry ice to a partner organization in Nepal. The kits were held up in Hong Kong for eight days. Of course they were ruined on arrival, which was extremely frustrating.”

Transfer of knowledge

Lieve will miss the challenges of her job when she retires at the end of 2017. At one time, a number of samples had to go to Russia, while samples that were supposed to be in Antwerp ended up in Mongolia. “Are you there? Hello hello, this is Ulaanbaatar calling. Go ahead, write that down.” “Hello, hello, this is Moscow calling.” “When that happens you have to do your utmost to get your cargo delivered on time and the samples from the other country back to Antwerp.” But her experience with Brazi­ lian import requirements tops everything. “I even needed the signature of the Antwerp mayor for a certain shipment. When the export papers were finally ready, there were so many stamps and signatures that it was almost impossible to read what was in the crates.”

Occasionally, Lieve takes the plane to go South. In 2013 and 2016 for example, she went to Benin to give the IATA training to colleagues from 12 African countries. “Colleagues of our Mycobacteriology unit have been working together with a reference laboratory in Cotonou. By now, they are perfectly able themselves to investigate e.g. tuberculosis strains from Benin and neighbouring countries. It gives me great satisfaction that I can contribute just a little bit to help our African colleagues safely ship the samples.”

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the list

Sick while travelling How to deal with the three most common travel diseases Eline Van Meervenne

Nothing is as alluring as a trip to an exotic place to escape a cold Belgian winter. However, it is a good idea to take a few precautions against diseases you could contract in your tropical paradise. ITM physician Ula Maniewski takes a closer look at the three most common travel diseases identified by the ITM travel clinic.

1. Travellers’ diarrhoea or turista

What is the treatment?

How do you contract it?

Traveller’s diarrhoea is harmless, but often annoying. It’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. The most effective remedy is a water, salt and sugar solution or soda without gas. If you have a high fever or blood in your stool, our advice is to consult a doctor on the spot and take an antibiotic.

An upset stomach or gastrointestinal problems in Belgium are usually caused by a virus. Travellers’ diarrhoea however is mostly the result of a bacterial infection. Bacteria thrive in tropical temperatures and our immune system is not able to fight them off. That’s why so many people suffer a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea during their holidays. What are the symptoms?

Abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Traveller’s diarrhoea is not very pleasant, but in most cases, it goes away on its own within a few days. A small number of patients may present more serious symptoms such as a high fever or bloody or mucous stools.

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How can you avoid the disease?

Much depends on the circumstances of your stay. Avoid drinking contaminated tap water or using it to brush your teeth. Do not eat vegetables or fruits rinsed with contaminated water. Don’t forget to wash your hands with clean water before you eat your supper. All this increases the risk of an infection. Keep a good personal hygiene, buy fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself and eat hot dishes immediately after they have been prepared.

the list

3. Respiratory infections How do you contract it?

2. Malaria

In most cases respiratory infections are caused by viruses and bacteria that get into your airways. These bacteria or viruses are usually transmitted from one person to the next through coughing and sneezing but also via the hands.

How do you contract it?

What are the symptoms?

Malaria is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. These mosquitoes are present in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa especially is a high risk malaria zone.

The symptoms of respiratory tract infections are fairly harmless: sore throat, cough, runny nose, etc. In case of a severe infection you may develop a fever and have difficulty breathing. Some respiratory infections are acute, they appear and disappear suddenly. In some serious cases, recovery may take a while.

What are the symptoms?

At the onset, malaria has symptoms similar to flu including fever, chills and muscle aches. Left untreated these symptoms lead to confusion, organ failure and coma. At worst, the disease is fatal. What is the treatment?

When presenting these symptoms, you should con­ sult a doctor as soon as possible. With timely treatment, this disease can be entirely cured. Be aware that malaria can still develop up to three months after infection. Consult a doctor if you develop a fever after your return home. How can you avoid the disease?

What is the treatment?

Often the infection disappears again, and no specific treatment is needed. You can relieve your symp­toms with a painkiller, a cough syrup or a nasal spray. For more serious infections you should consult a doctor. How can you avoid the disease?

Good hygiene is the best way to prevent respiratory infections. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or use a tissue to blow your nose. Put it in the bin afterwards. Wash your hands regularly.

The malaria mosquito bites from dusk until morning. You can prevent bites by wearing light clothing that covers arms and legs. Protect yourself with an insect repellent and sleep under a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide. In high risk areas, you can take preventive malaria pills.

23 | P³

itm and i

Réginald Moreels

Réginald Moreels is a surgeon and a humanitarian. He was Secretary of State and Minister of International Cooperation at the time of the first framework agreement between ITM and the Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation.


s founding father of the first framework agreement in the late 90s, when I was Secretary of State and Minister of International Cooperation, I became empathically involved with ITM, this world-famous icon of Belgian-African and international health expertise, and a human melting pot. Some of these people have become famous and we all know them. Others have not gotten the reputation they deserve. Silence sometimes speaks louder than words or fame in this case. Those who know more than the rest tend to shine through simplicity. Whatever the case may be, all of them, from PhD students to professors, are neurons in the computing unit of the brain and drift, as quantum particles, far beyond Antwerp. The focus of my “development field”, I detest the word deve­ lopment when speaking of others, has always been on equality, while leaving room for creativity, and a passion for initiative. The ‘Tropical’ in Antwerp encompasses far too much to encapsulate it into an array of rusty procedures. Project funding had to become programme funding, we needed a strategic framework agreement away from an operational set P³ | 24

of themes and projects, something that included all health sectors in the holistic sense. The first law on International Cooperation in 1999 laid down this framework agreement as a final strategy and extended it to both institutional and non-governmental types of cooperation. The priority of ITM’s outcome based research and action has always been the field and those most needy. Once you cross the threshold of the institute’s older buildings, you very quickly get drawn into this dynamic, invigorating, multi-cultural, non-discriminatory environment with a high level of openness. In ITM, I feel part of the ‘Mecca’ of applied research, although I am but an amateur among all those high-flyers. My pigmented heart beats a little faster, though without extra systole. In a time of xenophobia and mistrust, in a world in danger of populism, in a country that resembles a Magritte painting, in a time where the old continent that is Europe is in danger of losing its soul, but is sustained through its social security which the rest of the world does not have, ITM is for me an island of cultural intimism. Long may it live …


10th ECTMIH in Antwerp ITM is proud to be organising and hosting the 10th European Conference on Tropical Medicine and International Health (ECTMIH) from 16 to 20 October in Antwerp’s recently opened Elisabeth Congress Centre in Antwerp Zoo.

FESTMIH, the Federation of European Societies of Tropical Medicine and International Health, is the patron of this biennial event. ECTMIH gathers scientists and experts from all over the world to provide a platform for state-of-the-art updates and recent breakthroughs in tropical medicine and global health, as well as offer a broader view on scientific progress in societal impact and evidence-based practices. Additionally, it will be a forum for reflection on the role and position of tropical medicine, global health and international cooperation in the 21st century. •

Do you have scientifically relevant research to share?

Want to organize an entire scientific session with your organisation or group?

Do you wish to support the event as a sponsor?

Or do you just want to know what’s cooking and participate?

Check out all the information on the conference website and embark on our journey to high quality health care for all!


25 | P³

Calendar 24-25


TropNet meeting



Antwerp 10 Miles



10th European Congress on Tropical Medicine & International Health



Science day

Keep in touch We welcome your questions, remarks and suggestions at communicatie@itg.be. We also take orders for paper copies of P3.

Read P3 online at www.itg.be/magazine

ITM introduces a new logo For the third time in 107 years, the ITM logo underwent a complete make-over. Also have a look at our new website: www.itg.be