Introducing our 2023-2024 VN-BioStat fellows: Rukayya Alkassim

We are pleased to welcome Rukayya Alkassim to our department as one of the 2023-2024 fellows in our Vanderbilt-Nigeria Biostatistics Training Program (VN-BioStat). The program, which began last year, is a collaboration between the Department of Biostatistics, the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) in Nigeria. It aims to create a cohort of highly skilled Nigerian biostatisticians able to lead and supervise biostatistics activities for HIV research studies in West Africa.

Rukayya is one of this year's VN-BioStat trainees along with Safiya Sada Sani. Read more below about the work she'll be doing and her goals for the year.

Why did you want to join the VN-BioStat program?

I am passionate about biostatistics and its pivotal role in advancing healthcare and improving public health outcomes. My desire to join VN-BioStat is driven by a deep-seated commitment to the field of biostatistics and the belief that this program will equip me with the knowledge, resources, and collaborative opportunities necessary to effect meaningful change in healthcare research in Nigeria.

What kind of projects will you be working on?

I am excited to participate in the VN-BioStat program, which provides opportunities to contribute to HIV-related research and biostatistics. My involvement includes analysis support for ongoing research projects, leading a methodologically focused project, participating in a weekly HIV biostatistics dry lab, providing online biostatistics support to investigators, and supporting faculty enrichment training. These projects reflect the program's multidisciplinary and collaborative nature, contributing to the advancement of HIV-related research and biostatistics capacity in Nigeria.

What are you most looking forward to about your time here?

I'm thrilled about the VN-BioStat program for its unique blend of learning, collaboration, and impact. It offers opportunities to expand my knowledge, work with diverse researchers, make a difference, grow professionally, and build lasting relationships.

What do you think will be the most challenging?

I'm enthusiastic about participating in the VN-BioStat program, but I anticipate facing some challenges, including data complexity, cross-cultural collaboration, publishing research, balancing responsibilities, and adaptation to new environments. However, I view these challenges as valuable learning opportunities and am committed to proactively addressing them by seeking support and guidance from mentors, continuously improving my skills, and embracing the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

What skills are you hoping to learn that you can bring back home?

Participating in the VN-BioStat program will help me develop my skills including advanced biostatistical techniques, data management and analysis, research methodology, mentorship, cross-cultural competence, and project management. I aim to use these skills to make significant contributions to the field of biostatistics and healthcare research in Nigeria, with the long-term goal of leading and participating in research projects that improve the well-being of the Nigerian population.

Rukayya Alkassim