Outside the biomedical box of integrated care research. Meet some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA staff
The RESPOND-AFRICA consortium is made up of a range of diverse professionals from Europe and Africa. They are working on several different projects all aimed at improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV in Africa. They are experts in unique activities that range from infectious disease care, non-communicable diseases care, project management, implementation, social science, or health economics. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be involved in a large global health program including multi-country randomised control trials? We have interviewed some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA members who are both on the ground and behind the scenes to give you an idea. Follow along in our series documenting some of our RESPOND-AFRICA consortium members!
Interviewee name: Mohamed Zahir Alimohamed
Role in RESPOND-AFRICA: Research Coordinator/Scientist
RESPOND-AFRICA projects he is involved in: REF2021, Mapitio study, Inte-comm, MOCCA, Inte-Africa
Where they are based: Hindu Mandal Hospital, Dar es salaam, Tanzania
Past role/job: Research Scientist
Who are you?
I am a trained molecular biologist and biotechnologist having done my PhD training in the area of medical genetics (Groningen, NL) where I looked at the applications of next generation sequencing in solving/diagnosing genetic diseases. I returned to my home country Tanzania in 2019 and co-founded the Tanzania Human Genetics Organization, joined Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences as an Honorary lecturer (Dept. of Haematology and Blood Transfusion) and co-lead the gene therapy research unit at the sickle cell program-MUHAS. In 2020, I joined Hindu Mandal Hospital as the acting director of research and training and I continue to work and learn under Prof. Kaushik in the areas of NCDs and chronic illnesses in Tanzania. I am a football fanatic, a Manchester United supporter, a coffee addict, a humanitarian, Pan-African, feminist and a life learner. I have never tasted tea in my life!
The narrative and the health priorities in Africa and especially in Tanzania, need to be defined and set out by local health professionals and driven by local talent
How has your journey helped you lead to this point in your career?
Perseverance, focus and hard work are the main principles I live by. I have been blessed with opportunities to obtain scholarships to study abroad, and meet with brilliant scientists and mentors throughout my education and work. Through conferences and research, I realised the importance of returning to Africa to serve my country and the lack of genetics infrastructure in Tanzania, paved a pathway to do something substantial for the country. Getting involved with NCD related research and chronic illnesses has been a wonderful experience and game changer for me. I look forward to continued learning and contributing more.
How did you initially get involved in research?
Inherently I have been in awe of the advancements made through science and as an inquisitive person, research was intriguing and my calling. Choosing BSc Biotechnology was the first step that got me on the journey and before I knew it, I was breathing research.
More research and work need to be done to ensure proper usage, increased satisfaction and acceptance of integrated care in the population
How has the field of integrated care, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, been changing?
There has been a positive change on the awareness component as far as NCD and integrated care is concerned. This is true for both, policy makers as well as patient communities. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to formulate policies that actually work at the ground level in the local context. More research and work need to be done to ensure proper usage, increased satisfaction and acceptance of integrated care in the population.
What areas of HIV and NCD research and/or project management do you think are being neglected?
These areas are women and NCDs, neglected NCDs such as outside diabetes, COPD, neoplasms and CVD, equity in addressing health as opposed to diseases, focus on prevention and sustainability, and paediatric HIV.
I continue to devote myself to training local students, conducting local research, bridging the gap between LMIC and the developed world
What do you hope to do in your role and as a member of the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium?
I have always been interested in capacity building and infrastructure development in Africa for Africa by Africans. The narrative and the health priorities in this continent and especially in Tanzania, need to be defined and set out by local health professionals and driven by local talent. This is when Africa will truly progress in addressing its own problems and issues surrounding health and wellbeing. I continue to devote myself to training local students, conducting local research, bridging the gap between LMIC and the developed world as well as engaging with partners across the world to enable technology transfer in a meaningful and systematic manner.
Besides research and randomised control trials, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy swimming, football, comedy, acting and exploring the world (nature, culture, food).