Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mbarara, Uganda: A study to diagnose and treat chronic HBV infection

Greetings from Mbarara, Uganda!

After a 16-hour flight from Boston to Entebbe (via London), a quick overnight stay at the Karibu Guest House in Entebbe (with a fantastic breakfast), and a 6-hour drive, my husband and I arrived safely to the MGH Guest House in Mbarara.

I have been here for 3 days, and have had a wonderful experience thus far. It has been about 5 years since I have traveled to Africa, and I wish I had been able to come back sooner. I worked in Gaborone, Botswana in 2008-2009 with Dr. Roger Shapiro on a study analyzing birth outcomes among HIV-infected pregnant women, which was a phenomenal experience. So arriving in Uganda, I did not know what to expect.

After just a few days here in Mbarara, I have been extremely impressed with the research infrastructure of the MGH-MUST collaboration. My collaborators and I are hoping to introduce a study to diagnose and treat chronic HBV infection according to a simplified algorithm, and my main goals of this trip were to learn about the research infrastructure and to learn how we can best implement this study. I have met with the directors of the MUST Grants Office (specifically, from the Finance, Administration, and the Human Resources divisions), and found these meetings to be very helpful. With several studies ongoing, including the large UARTO study, it quickly became clear that this office knows how to effectively manage research studies – from budgetary concerns to hiring new research staff. Interestingly, when I met with James from the Human Resources Division, I asked whether they gave preference to applicants who had worked for MUST before. He said that although some principal investigators preferred this, as it reduces the amount of training needed, he prefers to hire individuals based on merit – as there may be highly qualified applicants who have not worked or volunteered at MUST in the past. I told my husband, “I can’t believe I have to go all the way to Uganda to find a merit-based system!”

Thanks for reading my first blog entry, and I’ll be back soon with another one.

Jennifer Y. Chen
MGH Gastroenterology and Hepatology Fellow

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