HEARD has welcomed four interns from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden,  as part of a research, teaching and student exchange programme supported by NRF-STINT. Bhitariyo Mulimba, Wisdom Adoh, Gorgeous Chinkonono and Ginikachukwu Uwakwe joined HEARD in November and will stay for 6 weeks.

The internship at HEARD is part of broader student and teacher exchange programme, which HEARD Director of Research Dr Kaymarlin Govender described as a; “cross fertilisation of knowledge, skills and methodological perspectives in public health.” Govender co-leads the partnership which is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). “The partnership is meant to establish a series of engagements between partner institutions, to make investments in research, teacher/student exchanges and partnerships, contextualised within the thematic areas of HIV/SRH research,” he said.

As part of the exchange, HEARD also sends its PhD students to the University of Gothenburg. It was during such a visit last year that Mulimba, Adoh, Chinkonono and Uwakwe learned that HEARD is a global leader for applied research and policy development in the area of HIV/SRH. “I was interested when this opportunity came about because I knew HEARD works to advance health equity across Africa, something which I am also passionate about,” said Adoh. The Ghanaian said while his previous work experience in human resources and public relations has shaped him, it was working for an organisation whose main purpose is to ensure that health research forms policy for better access to care for people, which made him realise the importance of strengthening health systems.

This was echoed by Tanzanian Mulimba, who left medical practice to pursue global health with the hope of having an impact on a much grander scale. “As a doctor you only treat one patient at a time and there are only so many patients you can treat,” she said.  She believes the HEARD internship will afford her the opportunity to transform her medical knowledge into applied research and policy development towards health care strengthening and advocating for the provision of quality accessible healthcare.

Mike Strauss, a Research Fellow at HEARD said the internship programme is structured to also afford the students an opportunity to gain research experience that will assist with the completion of their dissertations. Activities for the internship include: seminars on methods of scientific inquiry, communication of research ideas, methodological approaches. An integral part of the internship will be training on ethics principles. After completing an accredited course in ethics, the students will have an opportunity to sit in on an ethics committee meeting for a better understanding of scientific review process, said Strauss.

This will be especially beneficial for social worker Chinkonono, who intends starting her field research immediately after completing the HEARD internship. Her research focuses of the access to healthcare services for the deaf in her home country of Botswana. HEARD’s SRHR knowledge sharing platform will provide pertinent reading for biochemistry graduate Uwakwe, whose research will focus on women and girls and the challenges in accessing healthcare, particularly birth control methods. Another HEARD thematic area of interest for Uwakwe is health financing and strengthening health systems as in her home country of Nigeria, the medical treatment is largely an out of pocket expense.

The interns will return to Gothenburg early next year.