IAMAT President Assunta Uffer-Marcolongo has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share when it comes to travel health. She’s spent many years guiding IAMAT’s work and travel health has dramatically evolved over that time. We asked Assunta to share some of her insights on the world of travel medicine and her personal travel experiences.
How did you become involved in IAMAT?
After Commercial High School and training as a nurse in Switzerland, I came to Canada where I met Dr. Vincenzo Marcolongo in 1970. He asked me to work for IAMAT. I become involved not just in the management of the organization but also helped develop the first World Immunization Chart and World Malaria Risk Chart, the world’s first publications detailing vaccination recommendations and Malaria prophylaxis for all countries. These unique publications set the standard for health advice for travellers everywhere today. Other publications followed, such as the Traveller Clinical Record, whitepapers and charts on Schistosomiasis, Chagas, and travel health tipsheets and guides that are found in our eLibrary.
What do you find most interesting about travel medicine?
Travel medicine encompasses so many different disciplines: infectious diseases, emergency medicine, entomology, zoology, but also climate, geography, and all stages of life including children and seniors. It also covers security and ethical issues such as cultural awareness and sex tourism.
You’ve attended many travel and tropical medicine conferences over the years. What have you learned from these events?
Personal intercultural contacts are so important to make us more tolerant, compassionate, and ultimately kinder.
Setting up the travel medicine scholarship fund was a major accomplishment for IAMAT. What are you most proud of?
Yes, the Scholarship Fund was established in 2002. Our 28 international scholars are a source of pride; we can offer health providers from less developed areas the chance to train with renowned travel medicine experts.
What’s your favourite travel memory?
I have been to China many times since the 1990s and always love visiting new places and learning more about Chinese history. My favourite memory is my visit to the Gobi Desert and the oasis of Dunhuang with the stunning Buddhist cave paintings spanning more than a thousand years. I wish everybody could have the chance to travel and learn about other cultures.
Do you have any trips planned? Where do you want to travel next?
Yes, I will be visiting the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in September to do some hiking just for pleasure.
Photo courtesy of Assunta Uffer-Marcolongo.