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Building Tomorrow’s Global Health Leaders

Rosa Chemwey Ndiema (center), a gynecologist from Kenya, with Namrata Narain (left), director of Research Financial Operations for the Perelman School of Medicine, who is also a trainer for ABC workshops in Africa, and Megan Doherty (right), administrative director of the Center for Global Health

Rosa Chemwey Ndiema, MBChB, MMEd, has years of bedside experience as a gynecologist in her native Kenya, and aspires to have an even greater impact on the health of her community through leadership and research. Like many countries in eastern and southern Africa, Kenya has a high rate of pediatric HIV, with nearly 100,000 children living with the virus. Ndeima hopes to put Kenya on the path to virtual elimination of the virus through research on how to better involve community leaders to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

And that brought her to Philadelphia this summer to learn from renowned physicians and researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine. Her month-long fellowship offered her a new opportunity for mentorship and training in clinical research focused on eliminating pediatric HIV, which has been virtually eliminated here in the United States.

Ndeima was one of five scholars from three different African countries (Kenya, Botswana, and Tanzania) visiting Penn this summer as part of the Afya Bora Consortium (ABC).  ABC is a partnership between four U.S.-based universities, including Penn, and five African universities to offer African global health leaders practical skills and training not typically available to them. 

“ABC is about both leadership and research, and, most importantly, how to join the two together to improve the quality of care back at home,” Ndiema said.

Typically, ABC scholars come together throughout the year for one to two weeks at a time in various locations across Africa. But this year, Penn was the first U.S.-based institution to host ABC fellows, presenting both the fellows and Penn faculty with the opportunity for unique and fruitful collaborations. During their time at Penn, ABC fellows had the opportunity to take courses and work with mentors on topics such as clinical epidemiology, biostatistics, translational research, and clinical trials – areas in which the fellows are eager to gain more knowledge and experience.

“Our main goal was to provide ABC fellows with the advantage of learning from our faculty here at Penn, but we knew that faculty would also learn a lot from the fellows,” said Glen Gaulton, PhD, vice dean and director of the Penn Center for Global Health. “It was really remarkable that in just a few short weeks the fellows opened the eyes of our faculty and staff about the constraints they face practicing medicine and conducting research in a resource-limited setting. They have their own innovative solutions to today’s health care challenges and our team can learn just as much from the fellows as they learn from faculty here at Penn.”

For example, one scholar, Bruno Sunguya, MD, MSc, PhD, from Tanzania is researching how text messaging can improve HIV treatment outcomes for adolescents, an often hard-to-reach population. His work can also help shine a light on how physicians in the United States can apply text messaging to reach out to adolescents for a myriad of health and medical reasons.

Other research topics from the ABC Scholars included:

Check out the video to learn more from Ndiema and some of the other fellows:

The ABC program at Penn is one of many examples of how the Center for Global Health is working to foster opportunities for collaboration at Penn from around the world, and just a snapshot of the dynamic and growing field of global health, especially in academic medicine.

You can learn more about the ABC program and other initiatives from CGH to connect with and build future leaders in global health in the latest issue of Penn Medicine Magazine.

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