Jan. 22, 2016 | Wall Street Journal

Polio vaccination

Photo courtesy of RIBI Image Library under the Creative Commons license. No changes were made.

DAVOS, Switzerland—The world may well see its last case of polio in 2016, Bill and Melinda Gates said Friday, an event that would start a countdown toward the official eradication of the highly contagious and crippling disease.

“It’s possible that the last case will be in 2016,” Mr. Gates said. “We need some good execution and a little bit of luck.”

The co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation laid out their agenda for the year ahead in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Polio-eradication leaders have made tremendous progress in the past few years, the couple noted. The World Health Organization said last year that Nigeria had successfully stopped transmission of polio in the country. That has left just two countries—Afghanistan and Pakistan—that still haven’t eliminated transmission of wild poliovirus, the cause of most cases of polio. If there are no more cases after 2016, polio-eradication leaders will meet their pushed-back goal of eradicating the disease in 2019. The WHO considers a disease to be eradicated if there are no cases for three years.

But ridding Pakistan of polio remains a huge challenge. At least 15 people were killed in a suicide attack on a polio-vaccination center in southwestern Pakistan earlier this month. In recent years, polio workers in Pakistan have been targeted by militants who accuse them of working as spies for the U.S. government.

Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.

Jan. 14, 2016 | CNN

The World Health Organization declared an end Thursday to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But the global health organization cautioned that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone remain at high risk for additional small outbreaks of the disease and must remain vigilant.

For now, the WHO said in a statement, "all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa."

The organization said its job was not over. More flare-ups were expected, and strong surveillance and response systems would be critical in the months to come, it said.

Liberia was first declared free of Ebola transmission in May 2015, but the virus has been reintroduced twice since then, with the latest flare-up occurring in November. Thursday's announcement came 42 days -- two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus -- after the last confirmed patient in Liberia.

Three hardest-hit countries now have zero cases

"WHO commends Liberia's government and people on their effective response to this recent re-emergence of Ebola," said Dr. Alex Gasasira, the WHO representative in Liberia. "The rapid cessation of the flare-up is a concrete demonstration of the government's strengthened capacity to manage disease outbreaks. WHO will continue to support Liberia in its effort to prevent, detect and respond to suspected cases."

This date marks the first time since the start of the epidemic two years ago that all three of the hardest-hit countries -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- have reported zero cases for at least 42 days. Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola transmission on November 7 and Guinea on December 29.

"Detecting and breaking every chain of transmission has been a monumental achievement," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. "So much was needed and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and international organizations and generous partners. But our work is not done and vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks."

Read the full article on CNN.

Like Dr. Paul Osteen and so many others who dedicate weeks or months of their year to provide clinical care in underserved populations in developing nations, Doctor-Senator Bill Frist has spent over twenty-five years traveling to impoverished, conflict areas with World Medical Mission to provide medical attention where none may exist otherwise.
“I lie awake at night, and I can’t sleep… I’m afraid that if I close my eyes, I won’t wake up,” the gentle Egyptian man I met moments before, a two-time survivor of cancer, shared with me. “I’m worried I haven’t lived well,” he continued. “You know, I haven’t done good things, like you.”
“Namaste,” the young Bhutanese woman said opening the door of her and her family’s apartment for the medical assistant (MA) and me. As she and her in-laws warmly welcomed us into their living room/dining room space, another young woman and a little girl emerged from the bedroom. “How many of you are living here?” the MA asked the only gentleman in the room through the interpreter we had on the phone. “There are five of us,” he answered.

Dec. 30, 2015 | The New York Times

There’s a little plaque by my computer at home that says, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.” During 2012, I looked at it a lot — especially in the weeks leading up to one of the biggest speeches of my life.

To give you some background, I’m a practicing Catholic who grew up in Dallas and went to Catholic high school. I cherish quiet time and I’ve never loved being in the spotlight. In other words, I’m a pretty unlikely candidate to become an outspoken advocate for contraceptives.

Yet there I was on my way to Berlin to make the case to the world that we had to put family planning back on the global agenda.

Through my work with our foundation, I have met so many women in the world’s most impoverished places who tell me they lack access to contraceptives. Like parents everywhere, they want to make all of their children’s dreams come true. But without the ability to plan and space their births, they have more children than they can afford to feed or send to school — they feel helpless as their children become trapped in poverty, too. Once I heard their stories, I was determined to help them build a better future.

Read the full article on The New York Times.

“I don’t need this test,” the pharmacist-trained, El Salvadorian gentleman told my preceptor and me, quickly dismissing our suggestion that his persistent malaise, fatigue, and chills could be secondary to an underlying thyroid condition. “I have no problems with my thyroid,” he followed, in an effort to reinforce his point. When we proposed a CBC to check for anemia, he similarly protested, pulling down his right eye-lid to remind us that he had no Conjunctival Pallor.

This post originally appeared on ETSU College of Public Health.

Kenny Alphin and Bill Frist

In 2014, Senator Bill Frist, “Big Kenny” Alphin, and I worked together to identify twelve issues that we believed needed to be addressed to make a lasting change on the quality of life in our country and around the world.  While some of the data have changed, I think these issues remain as important today as they were when we posted them in early 2015.  I hope everyone will take a few minutes to re-read these posts, and think about how each of us can engage in this  “Essential Conversation.” 
-Dean Randy Wykoff

There can be no doubt that compassion for those less fortunate is a long and strongly held part of our national character. While some might argue that we have, as a Nation, lost some of that compassion, the three of us believe that it is still firmly rooted in who we are, and how we engage with the world.We believe that this sense of compassion is something that still binds us together, and we call on people from all sectors and sections of our country and beyond to join us in a conversation to identify and address some of the greatest threats to our global community.

While the modern world presents many challenges, it also provides a unique opportunity to come together and change the lives of the world's least fortunate. As a starting point in this dialogue, we have identified twelve issues that we believe demand action to help ensure the world becomes a better place for future generations.

Perhaps you will agree with our list, or perhaps you will identify other areas where we should focus our attention. Perhaps you have further information about these twelve topics and how we can make lasting changes at the local level, or perhaps some of these are issues you haven't spent much time considering.

No matter where you stand today, in 2015, we challenge you to be part of the conversation.

All we ask is that you set aside any pre-conceived notions; that you open your mind to new ideas and challenges; and, most importantly, that you approach these issues, and the people they affect, with compassion and caring.

We look forward to hearing from you. #Conversation2015 

Dr. Randy Wykoff, WK "Big Kenny" Alphin, and Senator Bill Frist 

The authors would like to thank Ms. Katie Neel, MPH, for conducting initial fact-checking for this article. The authors would also like to thank Alli Proffitt, Kate Etue, Brad Lifford, and Dara Young for remarkably thoughtful and insightful editing and other invaluable contributions.  

This article reflects the personal views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of their employers, co-workers, or others. 

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