Angolan doctor takes over Lisbon Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Publicação: 6 de November de 2019

Dr. Filomeno Fortes is the first foreigner to assume this position. He was unanimously elected on July 31 after an international contest

In his public presentation of the action proposal for the IHMT, the professor defended the reinforcement of the Institute’s national and international prestige, as well as partnerships with Portuguese-speaking African Countries

The Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT), represented by Dr. Carlos Costa, member of the board and responsible for the media and Professor at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), attended the promising inauguration of Dr. Filomeno Fortes in the direction of the Lisbon Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT). The public ceremony took place on September 26 at the Senate Hall, at the Rectory of the New University of Lisbon, at Campolide Campus.

Professor Filomeno Fortes, is an Angolan doctor given to science, passionate about Tropical Medicine and Public Health, with the opportunity to do more and better, working with the goal of alleviating human suffering and contributing to a better world. He has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and specializes in Public Health, Epidemiology and Control of Malaria and Tropical Diseases, has held various positions in Angola; He was National Director of Endemic Control, Head of the Disease Control Department of the National Directorate of Public Health, and Director of the Malaria Control Program. Internationally, in 2012, he was elected Secretary-General of the International Federation of Tropical Diseases (IFTM). In Angola, he is coordinator of the PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Agostinho Neto University.

The election of Dr. Filomeno Fortes took place after an international contest. In his public presentation of the proposed action for the IHMT for the period 2019-2023, he defended the strengthening of the Institute’s national and international prestige, as well as partnerships with the Portuguese-speaking African Countries (PALOP). The Professor emphasizes that his management wishes to keep the institution in line with the strategy of the NOVA University of Lisbon, to revolutionize and consolidate its role in the context of Tropical Medicine, Biomedicine and Global Health, to contribute to a greater projection of its scientific-cultural heritage and to promote value creation as a national and international reference institution.

“The aim is to work in partnership and synergy with other NOVA institutions, promote second and third cycle oriented higher education, organize courses, conferences, colloquia and seminars, carry out research and development programs, projects and actions, cooperate and support the community in which the Institute is inserted among others”, he explains. Also according to the Angolan doctor, promoting the creation of value, the idea is that the IHMT consolidates itself as a Center of Reference of the Clinic of Tropical Diseases, Reference Center of Travel Medicine, Center of Research of Tropical Diseases and Library of Tropical Medicine. “Cooperation and development as an important strategic axis should be based on strengthening networks of educational, research and service delivery institutions with countries of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), bilateral cooperation and the presence and participation of international bodies with emphasis on the World Health Organization (WHO-Genéve and WHO-Afro). The valorization of the Portuguese language should be included in the Institution’s strategic plan rather than a challenge, an obligation”, he highlights.

Scientific integration

The Lisbon Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a centenary institution and one of the most prestigious institutes at European level. It has the status of WHO Collaborating Center, observer on the Joint Coordinating Board of the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), partner of the WHO European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and important relationships with the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and TropEd. “We want to consolidate the gains made and to extend bilaterally the partnership with European reference institutes such as London and Liverpool (England), Antwerp (Belgium) and Montpellier (France). The recognition of the potential of the IHMT at European level should be through its active participation in the programs and interventions of the European Disease Control Center (ECDC)”, admits Dr. Filomeno.

Regarding the integration with the community of Portuguese-speaking countries, the doctor explains that considering the role of technical advisor and consultative observer of the Executive Secretariat of the CPLP, the intention is, in partnership with Brazilian institutions, to strengthen education, research and services and collaborate with bilateral cooperation institutions. It is also intended to contribute to the improvement of health professionals’ knowledge and skills in tropical medicine, biomedicine, health system policy development and workforce planning. “We propose to create a comprehensive Tropical Medicine network of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) that encompasses the control of neglected tropical diseases, emerging and re-emerging diseases, and the migration component. The formation of the second and third cycle of the IHMT should attract mainly CPLP technicians taking into account among several factors the ease of the Portuguese language. The implementation of short-term specialization courses using information and communication technologies for distance learning will be one of the tools to be provided by the IHMT. From the practical point of view, it is intended that students of Tropical Medicine have access to internships in tropical countries according to their epidemiological profile and endemicity”, details Dr. Filomeno. The Institute currently coordinates all health programs at the level of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.

“As IHMT is a partner of Fiocruz in the technical advisory and advisory observer mission of the Executive Secretariat of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, we want this role to be enhanced with greater interactivity and aggressiveness in implementing the CPLP Strategic Health Plan.”, he points out. The Institute is also a partner of the National Council of Health Secretaries of Brazil (CONASS). “Several IHMT researchers and teachers are active members of the BSTM and regularly participate in Congresses, interacting and stimulating the punctual production of projects and learning activities. The current CPLP cooperation networks were inspired by the Malaria Research and Development Network created in a sequence of BSTM Congresses under the leadership of Professor Carlos Henrique Costa, former president of SBMT, and Professor Virgílio do Rosário of the IHMT. The idea is to relaunch this dynamic through the evaluation and reinforcement of the current networks and the creation of new, more comprehensive ones inserted in a more structuring Coordination Network of Tropical Medicine”, he says. In addition, Professor Filomeno also invests in attracting Brazilian students to undertake their training in Portugal and to participate in multicenter research projects involving African countries.

Climate change and tropical diseases

Climate change coupled with the phenomena of globalization, migration and refugee movements pose a threat of unpredictable catastrophic proportions to humanity as they facilitate the proliferation of highly virulent vectors and pathogens in the short term. In this sense, Dr. Filomeno draws attention to arboviruses (dengue, chikungunya, Zika, among others), also paying attention to the risk of spreading malaria to areas where there are mosquitoes that transmit the disease, which for reasons of short longevity, as well as climate, currently are not effective vectors.

For him, the challenges are related to the implementation of efficient epidemiological surveillance systems supported by adequate registration, reporting and investigation mechanisms, and contingency / contingency plans. “The training of specialists in medical entomology, diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases must accompany this dynamic. The development of the biomedical sciences in Tropical Medicine must be a priority to enable the development of research leading to increasingly sensitive and specific diagnostic methods, effective medicines, drug and insecticide resistance surveillance, vaccine production and the development of other measures similar to long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets. From a global health standpoint, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be part of the priorities of governments, United Nations bodies and social organizations”, concludes the Director of the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, Dr. Filomeno Fortes.