IMED started a number of years ago as an International Conference on Emerging Infectious Disease sponsored primarily by PROMED-Mail. I won’t give you the extensive history and background but just leave it at – from its roots in 1995 with a simple ASCII based distribution list to a world wide network of over 65,000 individuals. The purpose is simple: report on new, unusual or important outbreaks as they first appear. There are only a few paid staff, the vast majority of participants watch, observe and submit as part of their commitment to improving response to new and emerging diseases. This is not just “Human Health” as most MD/ODs think about it but encompasses marine, wildlife, agriculture, livestock as well.
Think about it – humans in most locations are at the top of the food chain. But there is a food chain. When it is compromised, then no one does well. Oh, and environment. We all attempt to live somewhere.
There are about 800 attendees from over 100 countries. I am one of the few who is free from presenting a poster and can circulate and talk with others during the morning and afternoon session. I’ve met incredibly interesting people from Australia, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa who are involved in different aspects of the whole picture. Me? I have decided to be completely comfortable with my role as learner and observer. I’m not going to spot the next epidemic, I’m not going to find a drug that saves animals/people from the next dread disease. But what I can do, and am fairly good at, is asking questions about the “holes” or the missing information that sometimes doesn’t get identified by those too close to the problem. I can enjoy the poster sessions and ask interested and intelligent questions of the young people. Those who are starting to make a difference now and will carry their efforts forth to the next generation. I can talk people at the coffee breaks, I can relax.
What I am not doing is spending time traveling around Vienna, shopping or seeing the sites. I have been here many times before. Frankly the food offered at the breaks is more than enough to feed me extra meals. I’m also not knitting in even the large sessions since cultural morays very so much. Instead, like everyone else, if I get distracted I can always check my email…..