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
By Johanna Harvey
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. 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 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.
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.
“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 to 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.”
Emerging African health leaders including Mooketsi Molefi (left), a physician from Kenya, had the opportunity to network during their time at Penn with African health leaders who are on the Penn Medicine faculty, including Kojo Elenitoba-Johnson, MD (right).
Mooketsi Molefi, MBChB, MSc, from the department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Botswana, highlighted the value of his mentoring relationship with Penn biostatistician Alisa Stephen, PhD. “She was exactly the person I needed to help me fill the biostatic gap in my research project,” he said. “We’ve established such a great relationship over these past few weeks; I know we will continue to work together even after I leave Philadelphia.” Molefi’s project is focused on evaluating the quality of life for patients with HIV-associated meningitis in Botswana in order to improve treatment methods and life expectancy for this vulnerable population.
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.
“As the world gets smaller, thanks to improved communication, travel, and social media interconnectivity, the awareness of health disparities only grows larger,” Gaulton said. “We want to create an environment at Penn that supports students, staff, and faculty who have a passion for global health and translate that passion into strong in-country collaborations, ultimately helping our partners develop practical solutions to their health priorities.”
Established in 2015, the center’s mission is to improve health equity worldwide through enhanced public health awareness and access to care, discovery, and outcomes based research, and comprehensive educational programs grounded in partnerships like ABC.
“We know that by coming together, we can make the biggest impact,” Gaulton said.
To learn more about the Penn Center for Global Health visit http://www.med.upenn.edu/globalhealth/.