'Meet the Editor' - Dr Jimee Hwang

In the first instalment of our 'Meet the Editor' feature, where we interview Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group (CIDG) Editors, we meet Dr Jimee Hwang.

Could you describe where you currently work and what you do there?

I am currently a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seconded to the Malaria Elimination Initiative at the Global Health Group at UCSF. In my current role, I am the CDC team lead for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) program, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and co-implemented with CDC, in Ethiopia and the Greater Mekong Sub-region.  I support the respective in-country teams to program U.S. government investments and implement malaria control and prevention activities as well as provide technical assistance in the areas of surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, and operations research. I also participate on several global advisory groups, as well as PMI’s interagency working groups on case management and pre-elimination.

What is a typical day for you?

I spend many days on the road traveling to the Mekong, Ethiopia, or other various locations both domestic and international. Depending on the time of the year, I can be working on a new annual PMI malaria operations plan for Ethiopia and the Mekong; reviewing other countries’ plans, work plans for implementing partners, and national strategic plans; managing a cooperative agreement; or supporting various operations research projects with protocol development, implementation, analyses, or manuscript generation. Inevitably, there are also many early morning and late night calls to facilitate activities in Africa and Asia.

What prompted you to work in this area?

I was always interested in global health, but imagined that I would be the doctor at the end of the dirt road providing clinical care where it was most needed. My first trip outside of the U.S. was to Kolkata, India as a college student to work in a street clinic called Calcutta Rescue. There, I saw hundreds of children with preventable illnesses like diarrhea and malaria every day, waiting to be seen by Indian doctors. I realised that, for me, the possibility of working in public health and preventing disease to affect the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people was more motivating and exciting than individual patient care.

What are the major challenges that still remain in your field?  

The possibility of the world galvanizing to achieve a malaria-free world is astounding, and the opportunity to be a part of this global effort is inspiring. However, this ambitious goal poses many challenges: 1) technically, we need new and improved surveillance and diagnostic tools to tackle the malaria parasite as well as the mosquito vector that transmits malaria; 2) operationally, we need to build well-functioning and managed health systems; and 3) financially, it will take sustainment commitment and investment.  In addition, effective partner coordination will be essential to realizing this long-term vision.

How did you first hear about Cochrane?

As a busy medical resident, I always looked first to see if there was a Cochrane Review on a topic of interest to guide my clinical practice as I could trust that the evidence was systematically reviewed.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with Cochrane?  

I find working with an amazing group of dedicated editors and authors that are committed to producing the highest quality reviews very rewarding.

Who (or what) has been the biggest influence on your career to date? 

My experience in Kolkata set me on the path of a public health career, and the CDC has built and supported my malaria career. However, the numerous people I have had the pleasure to work with at CDC, The Carter Center, USAID, and UCSF have collectively been the biggest influence.  CDC is truly a special and unique institution where I have had the opportunity to be a colleague and friend to an amazing group of dedicated epidemiologists, entomologists, laboratory scientists, and public health advisors. Working in an environment that prioritizes scientific rigor and evidence generation in the context of improving program implementation and impact has really shaped and fostered my malaria career.

Please list three words you would associate with Cochrane.

Trusted, comprehensive, high-quality. 

What do you do in your spare time?

With two young kids, my hobbies now include reading Dr. Seuss, putting puzzles and Legos together, and mastering the monkey bars. I have also re-purposed old interests in woodworking and sewing to build a treehouse or to sew Elsa dresses from Disney’s “Frozen.”