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ITM residency: a future to interdisciplinary association

Samik Kharel writes about his experience as an ITM journalist-in-residence


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To be selected as one of the “ITM journalists-in-residence”, was a privilege for someone like me who wanted to work with interdisciplinary and overarching themes between healthcare and digital technology. I made my application, with focus on digital divide, vaccines equity, telemedicine and cross cutting themes between digital technologies and healthcare. These topics were even more relevant with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the great divide it has created among people to access vaccines with the use of the Internet.

This year’s residency had shifted from face to face to virtual, considering the pandemic risks which required travel and a gathering at the colloquium. However, the staffers at ITM and experts were very helpful and cooperative - as they would assemble all the resources to help me commit on my deliverables. Their valuable suggestions helped me craft my article well.

As a journalist-in-residence, I was also given the opportunity to participate in the 62nd ITM Colloquium - organised by ITM together with the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The Colloquium, brought about an array of international experts and professionals together online, despite the new rage witnessed with the omicron variant. The two-day conference was enlightening, as I learned about pandemics and zoonotic diseases from many experts in the field. The sessions were very informative- especially those around the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine equity in the Global South. A particular presentation on dog meat processing consumption leading to spread of rabies risk in Cameroon caught my attention. Normally rabies is transmitted from animal to animal or animal to human with the bite from an infected animal. But transmission has also been reported from the consumption of dead rabid animals and eating of raw dog meat. This was largely due to the lack of awareness and increasing activity of hunting and eating dog meat also known as “cynophyagya” in rural parts of Cameroon. I always thought the consumption of animals for human beings lies between “need and exoticism”. Similar practice can be echoed around Mushars (a marginalized community known as rat eaters) in Nepal to affluent Japanese consuming shark fin as a delicacy.

I was also particularly struck with a presentation on dengue in Nepal. The dengue infection rate in the country was five times higher in 2018 and 140 times higher in 2019 as compared to 2016. This increasing trend in outbreaks has been recorded since 2010, and was reported in 66 out of 77 districts in Nepal. In 2006, dengue outbreaks were only reported in low-lands of Nepal, but now they also appear in the high lands- likely due to the climate change and weather patterns. Since there’s no effective treatment for dengue fever, vector prevention and control are necessary to prevent transmission.

Overall, my ITM residency was a great experience for me, as I’m working in interdisciplinary fields as a journalist, writer, and technology enthusiast. I would like to consider this fellowship not as the end but a start to great future associations with the ITM. If given a chance, in the future I would also like to visit ITM and do the residency in person. It would be great to continue further associations and work with ITM’s interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach.

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