TDR Global Africa Node Announces winners in 2021 Research Mentorship Contest

The 2021 TDR Global Africa Research Mentorship Contest was launched on 1st July, 2021 and ended on July 31st, 2021. At the end of the deadline a total of 51 submissions were received. After initial screening for eligibility and scope, 39 submissions were eligible for the next stage of assessment. Fifteen mentorship ideas made it to the semi-final stage. Finally, after a rigorous and thorough deliberations by the nine (9) experienced Assessors, 3 top mentorship ideas emerged:

1. Robert Asampong from Ghana was adjudged the overall winner, with a mentorship idea titled “G-MENTOR”.

2. Hammed O. Mogaji from Nigeria is the 1st runner up with a mentorship idea titled “T-BOM Model”.

3. Hyacinthe Mushumba from Rwanda emerged as the 2nd runner up with a mentorship idea titled “The Afro Research Network (ARN)”.

The winner will receive a Certificate of Recognition, a Plaque and a laptop. Each of the two runners up will receive a Certificate of Recognition, a Plaque and a tablet.

In addition, the top three Finalists will make a pitch about their mentorship idea in a global contest for the global prize.

Robert Asampong - Winner

Robert Asampong is a self-motivated, versatile and result-oriented young researcher. After receiving his Bachelor’s in Public Health (Disease Control) at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, he served as Teaching and Research Assistant at the same. During his time as Research Assistant, he worked on a couple of grant-awarded research projects. He also worked briefly as District Supervisor during the first phase of the Polio End-process Monitoring in 2020. His experiences have both entrenched and honed his interest in academia and the health sciences. As an avid researcher, Robert has co-authored two peer-reviewed publications, with other manuscripts under review. His main research interests are cardiovascular disease epidemiology and infectious diseases. He is currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy degree in Field Epidemiology and Applied Biostatistics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. Robert Asampong is a Christian. During his leisure time, he likes to read poetry or play word puzzle games. Robert aspires to become a professor of epidemiology and believes that everyone has the innate ability to be the best they can ever be. His username on both LinkedIn and ResearchGate is Robert Asampong.

Mentorship Idea: "G-MENTOR"

The fact that most young researchers are conversant with the ordinary computer demonstrates that the computer can be leveraged to solve the present problem of mentorship. Thus, an easy-to-use, end-to-end encrypted computer-based software (which I will refer to as “G-MENTOR”) is the solution. This software will operate like LinkedIn and Microsoft Outlook. However, its design will incorporate innovative measures to ensure effective mentorship. The system will be designed to be supported by both Windows and iOS operating systems. The innovative measures will include:

1. Scheduling and reminder system linked to email, google calendar and phone (This will aid timely action and feedback from both mentors and mentees).

2. Real time conversation (via encrypted video chat, text chat, or audio chat) between mentors and mentees.

3. “Weekly Spotlight”: the idea of this is to showcase mentees who have successfully published their papers or received awards such as grants. This will encourage other mentees and spur them on to achieve more.

4. External link to common researchers’ platforms such as LinkedIn, OrcID, Scopus and ResearchGate.

5. User’s appraisal of the system to ensure continuous improvement of G-MENTOR

Implementation:

Implementation will be conducted in four (4) inter-linked phases.

1. Application design and build-up

2. Test run by software designers

3. Pilot-test by mentors and mentees

4. Final roll out

Although the system will be primarily computer-based, its “web-based version” will be launched after a successful pilot-test and final roll out of the former. This will aid researchers and mentors to log in at anytime in case they do not have immediate access to the computer software.

Dr. Hammed O. Mogaji - 1st Runner up

 

Dr Hammed O. Mogaji, who holds a PhD in Parasitology is the 1st runner-up in the TDR Global Africa Research Mentorship Contest. He lectures at Federal University Oye-Ekiti, in Nigeria and holds a postdoctoral fellowship in epidemiology at Institute of Collective Health, Salvador, Brazil. His research interest revolves around neglected tropical diseases, including mapping and exploration of socio-economic and ecological determinants of disease transmission. In the past years, he has focused on understudying disease programs and identifying bottlenecks limiting them. Before joining the university, he was a research scientist with the Spatial Parasitology and Health GIS group in Abeokuta and a field officer with MITOSATH. He has actively participated in the implementation of NTDs control program involving training of health workers and drug distributors across several endemic communities. He currently serves as a research support officer to MITOSATH. He won the prestigious WHO/TDR grant for his Masters’ program in infectious diseases and another WHO/TDR Research Capacity Strengthening grant in 2015. He was part of the researchers that piloted the IR Toolkit in Dhaka and the maiden PIR course at the ARTC, Accra. Mogaji is also a grantee of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) and Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi in 2020. He has a very deep passion for Global Health, most especially in areas involving strengthening community awareness and participation in disease control program. He piloted outreach programs on Malaria, NTDs and COVID-19 in Ogun and Ekiti States, Nigeria between 2015 and 2021, and was recently awarded the 2021 ASTMH Committee on Global Health award for his commitment to a career in Global Health. Mogaji is well published in over 35 peer-reviewed journals with representations in local and international conferences. He is a member of some National and International scientific societies including the TDR Global, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, British Society for Parasitology, Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria, iCHORDS, Global Schistosomiasis Alliance and American Society of Microbiology.

Mentorship Idea: "T-BOM Model"

A healthy mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way communication model, where both actors are expected to gather, share, collaborate and improve each other, of course with more emphasis on the mentee. However, there are little or no mentorship in Africa, as most relationships has degenerated to the usual academic supervisor and student model. Seeking an appropriate mentor has therefore become a challenge for most researchers. The current model of seeking a mentor is the Bottom-Top Approach, where researchers or student has to write and plead to work or learn from a potential mentor. I therefore propose the T-BOM Model, which is the Top-Bottom Open Mentorship Model. To promote mentorship, it is therefore important to adjust the Bottom-Top approach, to a Top-Bottom approach, with mentors seeking potential mentee. The top-bottom approach can begin with a process of open recruitment of mentors based on some set skills or standards. This can be followed by improving the visibility of mentors. A platform that’s more flexible can be hosted to provide information on mentor’s profile, affiliations, number of mentees they can take in a cycle of 1 year, their schedule of interactions, and what they can offer in terms of skills to mentors. Assessment of mentors on the skills can also be made open and more transparent by cohort mentees after each cycle of mentorship, to guide aspiring mentees.

More importantly, to enhance the mentoring model, it is important that interested mentors are trained on virtual skills and are expected to cascade such to their mentees, this should include provision of information about free virtual platforms of engagements, or access to paid platforms. This is important, considering the context of COVID-19 and also limited financial resources in LMICs. To ensure spread of mentors, mentees could have options of requesting for a maximum of 2 mentors in line with their terms, one within his or her continent and the other mentor could be selected from other continents.

To ensure sustainability, a mentor reward model could be designed, where mentors earn point based on recommendations received from mentees. Mentors could request for mentorship grants using their earned points, to cover expenses related to consistent virtual engagements with mentees, or rather, TDR could offer regional awards to most deserving mentors, based on mentees assessment. This will stimulate the interest and effectiveness of the mentors.  Most enterprising mentors and their mentees can also be showcased annually with records of their achievements, in terms of skill acquisition, improved CV, increased networks among others.

Hyacinthe Mushumbamwiza - 2nd Runner up

Hyacinthe Mushumbamwiza is a Public and Global Health Specialist with MSc in Public Health for Development at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has an experience of more than 8 years working at a national and international stand and I am passionate to implement Public Health training through research and advocacy that promote and contribute to evidence-based health policy and health research systems in developing countries. His goal is to ensure the efficient utilization and application of knowledge to improve global health through research. He aspired to work with a multidisciplinary network of experts, research organizations, governments, NGOs, and health institutions to promote the right to health and development by providing Strategic Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E), and the Design & Management of Research Projects. Hyacinthe is pursuing a career in which he can combine his entire academic and research experience and act as an integrating agent to take science from the bench to the implementation in a very real way. I get a lot of personal satisfaction when my research results help someone and play a pivotal role in tackling the development of health-related problems.

Mentorship Idea: "Afro Research Network (ARN)"

The Afro Research Network (ARN) is a research network created to promote impactful African research on health and healthcare issues important to emerging scientists and sustainable development. With this mission, the ARN focus its support on projects targeting high burden communicable and non-communicable diseases including neglected tropical diseases. “Support” takes the form of a mentorship scheme for health science professionals who require further experience in order to conduct research independently. Importantly, this target group includes graduates who no longer have access to university resources via enrolment. Both time from graduation and physical distance from research hubs separate graduates from scientific opportunities and networks. This is particularly true for graduates returning to under-served areas from top, international training programs.  Both mentees who intend to practice research as their primary profession or alongside another (e.g., medicine) will be invited to participate, even after a period away from research. Filling a career development and re-entry gap for this group sets the ARN apart from other African research initiatives. Other initiatives also tend to be located within established research institutions, while the ARN intends to offer on-site and remote mentorship when possible. This set-up should facilitate ARN accessibility and engagement of a mentee’s local community with research.

Mentees may either reach out or be identified by the ARN to apply for assistance with a project that addresses a health issue in their community. Using its resources and network, the ARN will provide project oversight to ensure high quality research and help match applicants to mentors with relevant expertise. Mentorship on multiple stages of research, from design through dissemination will be available depending on the needs and goals of each mentee. This approach and its anticipated success reflect the first-hand experience of ARN leaders- alumni of premier international health programs who know both research barriers and local benefits. ARN founders have studied domestically and abroad, worked “on the ground” and within structures of government and the world’s most prominent health organizations. They understand where the research journey begins and how to ensure it continues.

Through an effective mentorship scheme, the ARN aims to achieve the following:

• Establishment of a high quality, interdisciplinary researcher network with creative and innovative approaches in order to strengthen active community engagement and translate health research into evidence-informed decision making.

• Provide opportunities for early career researchers to engage with their peers and access training to develop their knowledge and skills.

• Promote impact evaluations of health and healthcare interventions.

• Convene early, mid and late career scientists to promote cross-continental synergy and dissemination of research outputs.