The first of four students from Africa who are joining McMaster’s Health Policy PhD program (each for a one-year period) through the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) grant held by CHEPA Associate Director John Lavis has begun his studies here.
Pierre Ongolo-Zogo, from Cameroon, is a doctoral student at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and holds both an MD and a master’s of science degree. Through an exchange agreement between Makerere University and McMaster, he is enrolled as a doctoral student in the Health Policy PhD program from January through December 2012.
Three other students will arrive at McMaster later this year or early next year to participate in the PhD program. Rhona Mijumbi, who is also a doctoral student at Makerere and is currently working with the Regional East African Community Health (REACH) policy initiative, and André Zida, a doctoral student working for the Ministry of Health and the Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet) in Burkina Faso, are both expected to begin studies at McMaster in the coming year. A fourth student will be selected at a later date.
The student exchange program supports students from one university enrolling in the other university while paying tuition only at their home university, and is one feature of the $1-million IDRC funding announced in 2009 for Lavis and Nelson Sewankambo, principal of the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University. The IDRC is funding study of knowledge-translation platforms in low- and middle-income countries. An agreement between McMaster and Makerere universities supports cooperation on the study, particularly the parts being executed in 10 African countries.
In addition to enrolment in the Health Policy PhD program, the IDRC has facilitated the African students’ participation in other educational endeavours and attendance at research meetings. They have attended courses on topics such as monitoring and evaluating research evidence in policymaking, preparing policy briefs, finding and using systematic reviews and grading the quality of research evidence in various cities including Kampala (Uganda), Lusaka (Zambia), and Maputo (Mozambique).
The IDRC funds are also providing additional training opportunities for four other students enrolled full-time in the Health Policy PhD program at McMaster. Doctoral stipends, travel and field work expenses have been provided for:
• Jessica Shearer, a third-year PhD doctoral candidate who has travelled to Kampala, Lusaka and Maputo for course work, and to Burkina Faso for field work for her thesis project on social networks, research evidence and innovation in health policymaking;
• Kaelen Moat, a third-year PhD doctoral candidate who has attended courses and research meetings in the same cities, to advance his thesis work on evidence briefs as a mechanism for knowledge transfer and exchange;
• Edward Gariba, a second-year PhD student who has attended short courses and research meetings in Kampala and Maputo in preparation for his thesis work on user testing, usage and impact of Health Systems Evidence and the Evidence-Informed Policy Network Virtual Health Library (EVIPNet VHL); and
• Liz Alvarez, who joined the PhD program last fall, and will begin her short course work in Addis Ababa later this year, as part of her work around knowledge translation from evidence to health care policy in low- and middle-income countries.
The IDRC, in collaboration with the Canada Research Chairs program, launched the inaugural International Research Chairs program in 2009 to pair top research talent from universities in Canada with their counterparts in developing nations, to share their advanced skills and knowledge to confront issues of common concern, while mentoring a new generation of scholars and practitioners.
Sewankambo, who is a highly regarded leader in the health field and holds an honorary doctorate from McMaster, holds the International Research Chair in Evidence-Informed Health Policies and Systems.