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Aspen Rotary Club, doctors make headway versus malaria

Dr. Dan Perlman in Ukrainian colors on the left and Dr. Bob Porter on the right.
Bryna Perlman/Courtesy photo

World Malaria Day on Tuesday was big for Dr. Dan Perlman, wife Bryna Perlman, and Dr. Bob Porter — members of the Aspen Rotary Club devoted to making a dent in the deadly disease with the help of the international service organization.

The Perlmans are recently back from a trip to western Kenya in March to scout out their next step in the fight.

“We ended up having 11 meetings with many Rotary Clubs in western Kenya,” said Bryna Perlman “We were in Kenya for eight days, visiting with other Rotarians and rural communities to learn about specific needs in the region.”



The Rotary Club of Siaya, Kenya. The Perlmans gather with local Rotarians and health workers.
Bryna Perlman/Courtesy photo


This wasn’t the first or likely the last trip to Africa for the Perlmans. They went to Africa in 2019 and brought their disease-fighting project to the Aspen Rotary. Even when they couldn’t travel in the region during COVID-19’s height, they employed all their virtual tools until the borders re-opened to build a network of partnerships to fund and train several thousand health-care workers in Zambia and begin to move into other areas.




The Perlmans and Dr. Porter see this effort as perhaps the most effective means of combating the disease, and the stakes are high.

“An estimated 247 million cases and 619,000 deaths were reported from malaria in 2022, and that was an important reality check,” Dr. Perlman said.

“We have a long way to go to meet the 2030 malaria goals, as well as a sigh of relief,” he said. “The increase in the loss of lives to malaria, which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, had not progressed.”

A child with malaria receiving care information at a village clinic in Kenya.
Bryna Perlman/Courtesy photo

ASPEN ROTARY CONNECTION

The Perlmans and Dr. Porter are Aspen Rotary Club members. The Dr. Perlman retired from a career in infectious disease and public health; Dr. Porter came to Aspen for the family environment in 2003.  

Together, they got the Rotary Club involved in their effort against malaria.  

“My passion is to add innovative ideas and energy to help in the global elimination of malaria,” said Dr. Perlman.

As an infectious disease physician, he treated many patients with fever returning from malaria areas and diagnosed the disease in them. He also gave advice to travelers on how to avoid malaria, as well as travel vaccines and medicines.

“I have had a lifetime connection with Africa and worked on several tropical medicine programs,” he said. “I have enjoyed working in all segments of the health-care system – from policy creation to executive health-care leadership to opinion leader to innovator to direct patient care.” 

In 2015, then President Barak Obama said when addressing the Kenyan people in person: “Because, in the end, we’re all part of one tribe — the human tribe.”
Bryna Perlman/Courtesy photo

For Dr. Porter, who had not been to Africa with the Perlmans, the common thread was Rotary.

“I joined Rotary because it is service-oriented — ‘service above self,'” he said. “When I joined seven years ago, I learned Rotary supported not only local scholarships, but an international program. I got interested and enthusiastically researched Dr. Perlman’s suggestions.”

“We presented results from Zambia,” Dr. Perlman said, “including data suggesting that rapidly-trained and -deployed community health workers are the backbone of management and eradication of malaria in rural Africa.”

They were on to something that worked, in other words.

Through Aspen Rotary, the doctors built powerful partnerships with Ministry of Health leaders in Zambia, the Gates Foundation, World Vision, and other organizations. 

“The goal is to train thousands of community health workers to fight against this disease that kills hundreds of thousands of kids under age 10 despite the many interventions that can save lives,” Dr. Porter said.

“The challenge is to train community health workers, support them with cell phones to collect real-time data, bicycles, uniforms, backpacks, etc.” Dr. Perlman said. “The government supports the program with rapid diagnosis kits (similar to the COVID plastic devices), treatment packs, and logistics to help deliver last kilometer care.”

Aspen Rotary (aspenrotary.org) raises funds for local, national, and international programs such as the malaria efforts. Their annual Ducky Derby in early August is a main source of funds for the work. Community volunteers are always welcome on African educational project tours, as well.

April 25 was designated World Malaria Day in 2007 by President George W. Bush, who called on Americans to join in on the goal to eradicate malaria on the African continent.

Presidents and other leaders have made a point of marking the day each year ever since.

“Malaria still threatens more than half the global population and claims the life of a child nearly every minute,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday in his turn. “And as climate change leads to rising temperatures, new areas will become vulnerable to malaria in the coming decades. Today, on World Malaria Day, we recommit to ending the disease worldwide.”

And so Aspen’s Rotary doctors keep up their good fight.

A site the Perlmans visited which is an unfinished health center that ran out of funds during construction. This is a future prospect of hope and community activism in Kaimosi, Kenya.
Bryna Perlman/Courtesy photo