University of Zambia and VIGH collaborate to build research capacity in Zambia

Dr. Sten Vermund, VIGH Director, began involvement in Zambia after attending a research needs assessment conference in 1998. Dr. Vermund co-chaired the HIV Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Working Group with Dr. Chewe Luo and in 2000 he co-founded the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) located in Lusaka. The two successful collaborations secured grants in 2000 and 2001 from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

VIGH has trained and engaged with a select group of Zambian researchers through several initiatives highlighted in the three following programs.

Vanderbilt-CIDRZ AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP)

For 14 years the VU-CIDRZ AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) has selected Zambian physicians with research potential and supported them as they received graduate degrees. To date, 31 Zambians have received graduate degrees and returned to Africa where they serve in government, international agencies, academic or non-governmental organization positions. Currently, VU-CIDRZ AITRP supports nine Zambian scholars pursuing graduate degrees through Vanderbilt University or distance education courses at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The VU-CIDRZ AITRP collaboration has provided intensive training through in-country workshops on data management, ethics, grant and manuscript writing. It also supports exemplary researchers presenting their research at international conferences.

Dr. Ben Andrews and UNZA students

In addition to supporting AITRP’s effort, Vanderbilt’s Dr. Benjamin Andrews provides clinical and research mentoring to Master of Medicine students at the University of Zambia (UNZA). Dr. Andrews, Dr. Yusuf Ahmed, MMed Research Coordinator, and VIGH worked with UNZA’s Assistant Dean Dr. Selestine Nzala to develop a research methods course, which serves as the cornerstone for more than 15 Master of Medicine program disciplines.

Fogarty International Supported Programs

Through the Fogarty International Global Health Fellows Program initiated in April, VIGH has paired American and Zambian scholars and fellows to enhance their clinical research skills. The new Global Health Fellows Program has replaced the The Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars and Fellows (FICRS-F) program but collaborations continue with the UNZA University Teaching Hospital (UNZA/UTH) as a designated training site.

Another Fogarty supported training initiative, the newly awarded Vanderbilt-Zambia Network for Innovation in Global Health Technologies (VZNIGHT), will provide postdoctoral research training in development of malaria diagnostic technologies to assist the Zambian health systems in reaching the objective of a malaria-free country.

Medical Education Partnership Initiative

Drs. Sten Vermund and Yakub Mulla received the Medical Education Partnership Initiative Award (MEPI) aimed to engage VIGH and UNZA faculty for improvement to medical education at UNZA. Drs. Selestine Nzala, Mohamed Labib, Kasonde Bowa and Shabir Lakhi have visited Vanderbilt University to observe the Center for Experimental Learning and Assessment, Center for Teaching, Biostatistical Clinics, Clinical Research Center’s Research Skills Workshops and The Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR) programs in preparation for establishing similar programs at UNZA.