A Center of Excellence for Biomedical Research and Training in Africa
  
  

Q and A with Dr Peter Mason: Training researchers in Zimbabwe

Dr. Peter Mason recently retired after 21 years as Director General of the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI), an independent institution he cofounded in Zimbabwe in 1995 to develop research skills in southern Africa. In 2005, Fogarty awarded BRTI the first of two, 5-year International Clinical, Operational and Health Services Research and Training Award (ICOHRTA) AIDS/TB Research Training Program grants. BRTI used this funding to develop a Zimbabwean postgraduate training program in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis research.

How has Fogarty built research capacity in Zimbabwe?

Without Fogarty, postgraduate clinical training in Zimbabwe would have collapsed. When we started the ICOHRTA in 2005, Zimbabwe had billion-percent inflation and no access to foreign currency to bring anything into the country, including materials you need to do science. Doctors, nurses, lecturers, teachers were going abroad. People couldn’t afford to go to hospital, so the wards in many teaching hospitals were empty and clinical teaching was affected.

ICOHRTA allowed us to pay postgraduate students U.S. dollar stipends to complete projects in AIDS, TB and opportunistic infections, and to pay their internet charges – which in Zimbabwe are among the most expensive in Africa. In 10 years, we’ve supported 54 postgraduate students conducting research in areas including the interactions between antiretrovirals and traditional herbs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and TB diagnosis in HIV patients, to name a few. Thirty-three of the students published at least one paper by the time the program ended in 2015. It’s thanks to Fogarty that we were able to keep them going.

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Our Future

With the contributions from a dedicated and professional staff complement, BRTI has achieved  20 years of continuing growth. From its inception in 1995, the BRTI has strived to become a a centre for excellence in health research and training in Africa. We are confident that the philosophy behind the formation of BRTI, that African scientists must take responsibility for improving their own working environment, was correct. We predict that, in spite of a degree of economic uncertainty in Zimbabwe, the gains that have been made during these years can be consolidated and expanded. We look forward to the future with confidence.

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