Career development fellowship found to have impact

TDR news item
25 April 2014

An external review of TDR’s career development fellowship has found the programme has an impact on a broad range of factors, with ample future potential for continued growth and extension. Altogether, 95% of survey respondents think that their skills and competencies in good clinical or laboratory practices were “better” or “much better” at the end of the programme.

"The CDF programme is a very interesting programme … With this programme I (have) specialized in clinical research … I have learnt a lot during this training and I will be able to set up an investigational clinical site and conduct clinical trials in my country where clinical research is still a new concept."

Former career development fellow interviewed for the external review

The Career Development Fellowship (CDF), which began in 1999, gives postgraduate fellows from hospitals, academic and research institutions in low- and middle-income countries the opportunity to spend 12 months working in the clinical department of a host pharmaceutical company or product development partnership.

To date, 42 fellows have participated in the programme, and 18 host companies from Europe, the USA, and Singapore have offered training positions. CDF fellows have come from 19 African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, The Gambia, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Others have come from China, Colombia, Peru and Viet Nam.

“It is incredible to see the level of engagement and planning involved to make this happen. The hosts provide a great deal of in-kind contributions, and the programme looks at the best fit for each fellow,” explained John Reeder, TDR’s Director. “It’s truly inspirational to see this all come together, and to follow the impact these fellows are having in their countries.”

The fellows valued the hands-on approach, and listed a number of skills acquired due to the fellowship, such as project management, trial design and good clinical practice and good clinical laboratory practice. Before the training, 19% lacked experience with managing ethical issues, but 81% said they received it through programme. They also improved their ability to get both national and international grants, and in writing and publishing research papers.

Personal pre-“training gaps” in skills and competencies and training received through the CDF programme (Fellows’ Survey; n=21/27)

The review also identified ongoing challenges. Reintegration is sometimes a difficult experience for CDF fellows, with 67% of the review respondents saying there were not enough staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to partner with back in the home institution. The CDF programme is looking at how to address these issues, involving the institutions in finding solutions.

Several unplanned, positive consequences were also noted. This included the recent interest of European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) to work with TDR to support a broader range of fellowships. They also noted that the professional member scheme originally created for just the fellows was so valuable it had grown into a tool used internationally for a wider audience of scientists.

The external evaluators came from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Basel, Switzerland, and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain. The evaluation was carried out between August 2012 and April 2013 and included in-depth interviews with participants. About 78% of the fellows and 56% of the host institutions (56%) responded, but there was a low response rate from the home institutions.

The review made the following top recommendations:

  • Continue and expand the CDF programme.
  • Develop a reintegration process for the fellows.
  • Improve engagement of home institutions.
  • Consider opening the training scope to include more topics relevant to applied research

Career Development Fellow comments from the external review

“Upon my return home, I discussed with my boss and we decided to undertake modernization of our laboratory. We also developed some partnerships that permitted us to acquire state-of-the-art equipment for research in the domain of tuberculosis and have constituted cohorts of patients readily available for research in the domain of TB/HIV.”

“The CDF has been helpful in the development of my career. I am currently the administrator of the IRB ensuring training and ethical conduct of studies including clinical trials in my institution. With my leadership we were able to get funding for strengthening the IRB. My teaching has certainly improved and I have changed ranks from an assistant lecturer to a senior lecturer.”

For more information, contact:

Pascal Launois (launoisp@who.int)

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