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    Personality of the Month

    Personality of the Month

    An interview with Jeffrey De Guzman, a Public Health Entomologist from Philippines.

    1. How long have you been working in the field of public health entomology/vector biology/vector control?
    Background

    I was appointed as the regional public health entomologist only in the year 2014 at the Department of Health – Regional Office III (Central Luzon, Philippines).

    Realizing the importance of Regional Public Health Entomologists in implementing vector borne disease programs in our country, the Department of Health (National Office) through the Government Rationalization Program (Executive Order 366), directing a strategic review of the operations and organizations of the executive branch, retained these positions.

    Working in public health setting seems to be not attractive to entomologists in the Philippines. Majority of them are affiliated to private companies and the academe. With this resulting limitation and together with my desire to contribute in this field, I decided to apply for the job.

    As a Medical Technologist working in the Vector-borne Diseases Prevention and Control Program for 12 years with relevant trainings, I was hired for the position.

    2. Why did you decide to pursue a career in public health entomology/vector biology/vector control?

    The past decade has been a period of remarkable achievements in the reduction of the malaria burden in our country, the Philippines. These achievements have exceeded the target rates for malaria morbidity and mortality set in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 6: Halt and reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015.

    Owing to the successes attained in malaria reduction, the National Malaria Program in our country has gained confidence, taking the battle one step higher – from malaria control to elimination.

    In the light of this feat, it is of great privilege and honour to continually contribute in the goal of eliminating a disease in our generation. Much have been achieved with the ability and skills I gained in the field of microscopy but this time, it is of necessity to further and play a part in dealing not only with the parasites but with the vectors.

    Previously, appointment of Public Health Entomologists was already executed but majority of the tasks they performed were out of their work’s scope. The new decentralized organizational structure for public health response aims to focus on the Public Health Entomologists’ primary roles and functions in the implementation, improvement and creation of innovative strategies in the prevention, control and elimination of vector borne diseases.

    3. What were the opportunities you had been able to pursue, and/or you are currently pursuing – this could be either educational/professional training or career development but not limited to these?

    To overcome the limitations, a big adjustment is required on my part. Continuing

    Education/training is essential to accomplish expected entomological deliverables. Through the assistance of the Medical Entomology Unit of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the Asian Collaborative Training Network for Malaria, I was able to undergo several trainings (short courses and On-the-Job Training).

    Similarly, self-learning is one of the brightest tools that helped me attain personal growth in the field. There are several websites available through which valuable academic resources in medical entomology may be accessed such as the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU).

    After acquiring newfound skills, we cascaded the trainings down to the municipal level in our region. The designated vector control officers are now capable to carry out vector surveillance and assessment in their localities as well as monitoring and evaluation of malaria vector control activities at different levels.

    Recently, I was also very fortunate to attend the 2nd International Training Course on Malaria Vector Surveillance for Elimination in Kasetsart University which was organized by APMEN. It was such a delightful experience meeting and learning from colleagues which considerably honed my skills.

    4. The field of public health entomology/vector biology/vector control is the backbone of vector-borne diseases control and elimination programs, but many say there is lack of career incentive for this field, at least in our Asia Pacific region. Do you agree or disagree? Please explain us the reasons. And if you agree, what APMEN can do to bring about change.

    The way I see it, in order to have a promising career in a health institution, one needs to be a medical doctor or a nursing graduate. With the little involvement of Entomologists on the decision making of the top managements, it is but just expected that some related projects/activities be overlooked or not prioritized. Moreover, organization structure and staffing concerns still exists leading to divided focus of efforts outside the core functions of Entomologists.

    With the challenges the world is facing due to the effects of COVID 19 pandemic, the ORENE is a noble initiative by APMEN that strengthens the network by opening channels of communications and facilitate exchanges of information, workshops or fora to update members regarding researches, trainings, and other resources in medical entomology in the Asia Pacific region.

    5. Anything additional you would like to add? (in particular, related to the theme of contributing today, changing tomorrow?).

    In light of the gaps that exists in the field of public health entomology in our country, advocating and lobbying support by the higher-ups is very much needed to facilitate conduct of more detailed vector control functions/entomological activities by the public health entomologists, and to continually look for possible ways to come up with a continuous, sustainable, and integrated approach to vector research and their actual applications to reduce the burden of different vector-borne diseases in the country.

    Magnitude of research and studies on medically important mosquitoes in the country is still insufficient for it to contribute comprehensively to integrated methods of vector management and eliminate mosquito-borne infections in the Philippines.