Interview with Concha Martín, coordinator of the Annual Scientific Conference 2017

Concha Martín de Pando, Liaison Officer of MediPIET, is in charge of the organisation of the third MediPIET Annual Scientific Conference, that will be held from 27th to 30th November. We meet her in Brussels before the start of the week to chat about the details of the Conference that will gather almost 200 specialists from the countries members.

Concha Martín is epidemiologist with background in Psychology. With more than 20 years of experience in training and capacity building, she has worked in the field of Humanitarian and International cooperation. She is working in Public Health and in the Mediterranean region for 10 years, first with EPISOUTH, a network for communicable disease control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean countries, and then with MediPIET.

–       As in the three previous MediPIET Conferences, you will be orchestrating the ASC 2017, what do you expect from this edition?

I would mainly expect the following: Interesting scientific discussions on current public health challenges; strengthening the network by making it bigger in number, in quality, and enthusiasm of involved people; and last but not least, this is the chance to provide future opportunities for intercountry collaborations.


–       The theme of this year is “Regional contributions and synergies for Global Health Security”, why have you chosen it? What are the main challenges for Global Health Security?

The theme is, as every year, proposed and decided by the Scientific Committee.

This year 2017, it is 10 years that International Health Regulations entered into force. Although the majority of the countries have made efforts to increase their national public health core capacities there is still a long way ahead. All contributions are needed. Infectious diseases do not know borders. People and goods travel quickly and with them health risks. Since MediPIET has been implementing (2014-2017) the PH workforces all over the world have been involved in preparedness actions in order to phase challenging Public Health events of international Concern: Ebola, Zyka, Crimea Congo Hemorragic Fever, Plague … but also re-emerging diseases that are targeted under eradication programmes, such as polio or measles. Additionally the huge influx of migrants in countries with public health systems that are not ready to cope with such challenging situations needs well trained people, and MediPIET contribute to strengthen capacities.

On the other hand there is an enormous quantity of actors facing PH emergencies (national, international, NGO’s, private foundations, etc) worldwide, and also in the MediPIET Region. It is crucial to find synergies and to work together, specifically in a region where there is not a common organization or political umbrella (such as EU or Union for Africa, or others). MediPIET network is an opportunity to work together to harmonize the procedures, the methods for decreasing the public health risks and to contribute to protect better the citizens around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea despite their nationalities.

The main challenges for public health are not only the infectious diseases of natural or  man-made origin, but also those aspects related to climate change, bio-terrorism, wars and the movement of population from one side to another. The MediPIET regional programme may play a key role detecting and controlling future PH challenges  in a coordinated way. We need to do it in synergy with other actors.

–       How have you seen the evolution of the Annual Scientific Conference, from the first in Skopje in 2015 and second in Marrakesh in 2016 to this one?

The first aspect to be highlighted is the increasing interest and motivation to take part in the MediPIET Conference. In the first edition we got 76 submitted abstracts from 18  countries including from one observer countries; in the Second edition we got 96 from 18 countries, 14 of them partner countries. In this ASC 2017 we received 180 abstracts from 17 partner countries plus 7 countries out of MediPIET region.

In general countries have increased their willingness to take part in the ASC. This year, for instance, Palestine submitted 14 abstracts a doubled the number from last edition. Ukraine has increased their participation from 2 abstracts submitted last year to 18 in this edition. On the other hand, countries with National FETP’s perceive the MediPIET conference as an opportunity for their fellows to present their works in an international forum. Morocco or Egypt have increased their number of abstracts submitted 24 and 18 respectively. These features and the participation of other countries out of the MediPIET region are part of the effect to become more known after the organization in the 2016 edition of the Joint Session with EMPHNET.

The fact that many of the authors with abstracts accepted are enabled to participate in one of the most relevant training modules (Review Module) that focused on the skills for scientific communication, is also one of the major attracting aspect of our conference.

–       How do you think the ASC contributes to reinforce the MediPIET Network?

The possibility to meet colleagues from different countries and different institutions for scientific discussion is always something that feed the interest of professionals having the opportunity to learn more of the methodology and application of epidemiology is always an added value. The ASC is a forum for information and new knowledge exchange, and an opportunity for creation of professional links and the possibilities of informal exchange.


–       Four years of MediPIET… What was for you the best part of the whole experience? Is there a moment that you remember with special affection?

For me the best part is to see how the network has grown. The spirit and the atmosphere remains as good as it was long time ago.

I know many of the members of this network since 10 years, since EPISOUTH period. Building trust among such different countries and persons is not an easy issue.  MediPIET, and its Conference has contributed to build the feeling to be part of something bigger and useful for the region. It is the result of many efforts for keeping a network of PH professionals alive and functional for stopping the risks at the origin and protect the citizens from any kind of threat.

After these three years I feel that the network is getting maturity. All of us, the members of the MediPIET network we can feel proud of what we have built.