TDR trains researchers for leadership
Five experienced researchers have completed a successful internship at the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of a pioneering TDR programme to increase health research leadership capacity in disease endemic countries.
The three-year Leadership Development Programme is part of TDR's empowerment strategy to build leadership capacity at individual, institutional and national levels. The aim is to help disease endemic countries take more of a lead in national and international health research activities which have a direct impact on the infectious diseases of poverty.
The leadership fellows are from Botswana, Cuba, Kenya, Nigeria and Turkey and received management, project planning and communications training during a three-week course in Geneva 10-28 May. They also met strategic TDR and WHO staff and joined their ministerial delegations at the annual World Health Assembly. This was part of a package designed in consultation with the fellows to meet their research development needs.
Career development pathways can be a major obstacle for the progression of health researchers in disease endemic countries. The TDR programme will give the fellows greater exposure to the international health research forum, build a network and increase their personal capacity to progress as leading researchers. In the future they will help to address the inequalities in health research by taking a key role in shaping its development in their country and region.
- "I feel a lot more empowered," said Dr Pauline Mwinzi, a principal research officer of the Kenya Medical Research Institute Centre for Global Health Research. "I now have a very clear vision of what I need to do and the kind of support I can take back home to empower others."
Mwinzi is confident that she can use her improved networking skills to strengthen the linkage between her research institute and policy makers, and to put schistosomiasis - her specialty area - on the public health map in Kenya.
- Dr Roberto Canete Villafranca, consultant and researcher at the Centre for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology in Matanzas City and at the Cuban Institute of Gastroenterology in Havana, won the leadership development grant for his project to increase knowledge and application of bioethics in public health.
"It's been excellent because it's taught me a new way of thinking: I have improved my skills in research development, management and communications,'' commented Canete Villafranca, who said that contacts made with the Cuban delegation at the World Health Assembly were particularly important.
- Reinvigoration of primary health care in Nigeria through university-community partnership is the goal of Dr Ahmed Adebowale Adedeji, senior lecturer and coordinator in the Communicable Diseases Research Unit at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria. Adedeji said TDR's leadership fellowship would enable him to train Masters students, develop interdepartmental research alliances and build the capacity of his university.
"I hope that if we are able to deliver on that, the university system will be better able to translate research efforts into community health projects", he said.
- Dr Daniel Motlhanka, senior lecturer at Botswana College of Agriculture, plans to establish a national medicinal and nutritional plants screening centre by 2013 to optimize the utilization of indigenous plants to improve the nutritional and health status of Batswana.
Motlhanka joined Botswana's delegation at the World Health Assembly and has been invited to participate in an October 2010 stakeholders meeting of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation. As a result, he has now developed excellent networking contacts to promote his project, which is in tune with the Botswana government 's desire to incorporate traditional medicines - upon which an estimated 80% of the population rely - into the formal health sector.
"By empowering myself, TDR will allow me to empower others," he said. "When you empower people, it cascades to empowering institutions."
- Dr Aysegul Taylan Ozkan is a laboratory chief at the National Parasitologic and Bacterial Zoonotic Diseases Reference and Research Laboratory at Refik Saydam National Public Health Agency in Turkey. She wants to establish a national laboratory network for parasitic diseases by 2015 to improve quality control programmes and diagnostics. She said there is far too little awareness of parasitic diseases, which affect mainly the poor, among the population and policy makers in Turkey.
Prior to being selected as a leadership development fellow, Taylan Ozkan said her primary focus was on her own research. Now she has set her sights on making a change for the better both in her institution and in her country.
"We came to Geneva as ordinary people. We left as leaders," she said.
All leadership fellows were selected, through a competitive and peer reviewed process, on the basis of their potential for leadership and innovation. All had to demonstrate a clear understanding of TDR’s new vision and WHO’s policies such as those related to the Millennium Development Goals, and had to demonstrate the ability to incorporate the concepts and ideas into their own career development plan.
They will return to TDR for two weeks in 2010 and 2011 and will receive intense training in research management in leadership in recognized institutions.