The Wellcome Trust Approach to Capacity Building

Val Snewin opened the session describing The Wellcome Trust, a global charity based in the UK dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health, and how they fund different programs around the world to help build up health services workers, especially researchers. The Wellcome Trust funded seven consortia involving 70 institutes, of which the session highlighted funded work that impacts India, Kenya and Africa. Speakers from each country explained about how their programs are structured and their learnings – the speakers all agreed that the consortia need to focus on the long-term success like career paths in order to establish the right supporting programs, especially mentorship, that ultimately build up capacity and maintain it.

Andrew Haines from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the priorities of the consortia in Africa are developing mentorship, MSc training, supporting PhD students, professional development and career planning, and establishing research support centers in the region. They face many challenges though in making the consortia successful – money, Internet bandwidth, expectations and the government’s visa restrictions are all hurdles. Haines said there is no real financial reward for the staff’s time in research from universities so they actually have a net loss. With limited bandwidth in Africa, it makes distance learning a serious problem. They’ve implemented several approaches to try to address the challenges including sharing resources like research methods add staff development in region, they are doing more courses taught by LSHTM staff based in the country, and they are licensing distance learning courses.

For India, Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India, spoke about the foundation’s focus on improving health outcomes through education;  research, policy and advocacy; training; and public health practice. PHFI is in partnership with the Wellcome Trust for capacity building – they began doing annual meetings in 2007, in which seven institutions participated – these groups had never previously collaborated. In 2008, that number has grown to 12. Its proposal to the Wellcome Trust is nurturing young faculty, fostering research, and active sharing of resources.

 Sam Kinyanjui of the Kenya Medical Research Institute walked through how they’ve managed to implement a program that has shown a strong track record of its students in the program going on to get PhDs or to Masters tracks – many of those in the Masters tracks have even submitted and were chosen for fellowships from the Wellcome Trust. The KEMRI does demographic and epidemiological surveillance for 240,000 people, clinical surveillance and investigation, and utilizes high quality labs and data centers. Kinyanjui showed a startling image of the KEMRI first research facility, a dilapidated small shed where they squeezed 20 members in, located in the middle of overgrown grass. Now, 20 years later, the research capacity is s large, high quality building with multiple spaces for training and which houses 750 staff.

 Prepared by Erika Bitzer

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