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FHI 360 facilitates the next generation of public health researchers in Zambia

July 02, 2014

Today, Zambia is faced with a complex set of challenges, including high rates of HIV, an overburdened national health system and a lack of researchers dedicated to resolving these issues.   

Across Zambia, graduate students are conducting research to address and mitigate these health concerns and strengthen national data. Unfortunately, students often struggle to complete their academic requirements because they have limited access to academic journals or national databases that centralize raw data and research materials. All too often, students reference outdated books, journals and dissertations.

FHI 360 provides opportunities for graduate students

FHI 360 and the UNZA School of Medicine sign a memorandum of understanding.

To help overcome these barriers, FHI 360 in Zambia is partnering with the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Medicine on a unique internship program that helps graduate students access data to fulfill their research requirements. FHI 360’s Zambia Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership (ZPCT II) worked with the UNZA School of Medicine to identify three students for this pilot program. The graduate students, who work as interns at FHI 360, are provided with stipends to cover their travel, ethics approval fees and dissertation development. Each student is paired with a ZPCT II staff member who is an expert in the student’s area of interest.

Under ZPCT II, FHI 360 collects data in the fields of HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, tuberculosis, nutrition and family planning. As FHI 360 interns, the graduate students are granted access to this programmatic data, which helps them to identify and answer relevant research questions, develop dissertations and write articles to be placed in peer-reviewed publications. By engaging with FHI 360, the students are also able to collect primary data from patient records in the health clinics or districts supported by ZPCT II.

Through this new initiative, FHI 360’s ZPCT II program is building the capacity of graduate students to conduct research and contribute to the national body of data. In so doing, they are developing the next generation of public health researchers. 

Developing capacity through mentoring: Voices from our 2013 interns

Chama MulubwaChama Mulubwa

“With the help of FHI 360, I completed a research study entitled Social and Clinical Attributes of Patients Who Restart Antiretroviral Therapy at Five Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Centres in Central and Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia. This study aimed to determine the proportion of people who restart ART, as well as to describe their sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.

I have benefited from FHI 360 in a numbers of ways. The partnership has been able to provide research support allowances and mentorship, which are essential for the completion of my master’s degree program. With the support of FHI 360, I presented my findings at the University of Zambia graduate forum and won third prize for the best poster presentation.

It is my belief that the partnership between FHI 360 and the University of Zambia School of Medicine is helping to train future generations and thus to fight HIV now and in the future.”

Sophie Inabwae

Sophie Inabwae

“My research topic is examining the prevalence of HIV seroconversion in pregnant women in Zambia. It aims to examine the extent to which seroconversion is occurring in HIV-negative pregnant women and the factors associated with it.

FHI 360 has made it possible for me to carry out my study by allowing me to use data from 10 sites that it supports and by giving me the opportunity to work with a good mentor and other members of staff.”

Lenon Matongo

“I have just completed research on the determinants of male involvement in the PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV] program in Chibombo district in the Central province of Zambia.

My internship with FHI 360 has benefited me beyond my expectation. The organization has immensely supported my research financially and through mentoring, from the stage of proposal development to the current stage of dissertation writing.” 

Photo caption: FHI 360 and the UNZA School of Medicine signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 to create a pilot internship program for graduate students studying public health. From left to right: Dean of UNZA School of Medicine, Dr. Fastone Goma; UNZA Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Simukanga; FHI 360 Zambia Country Director, Dr. Michael Welsh; Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr. Peter Mwaba; Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, Director of Mother and Child Health, Dr. Carolyn Phiri.