Training TB/AIDS researchers and eating barbeque, South Africa style

[This post was sent in by Kirsten Leysieffer, the fellowship and training administrator at the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases]

On Saturday, July 18, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual research meeting of  the South Africa TB/AIDS Training Program (SATBAT), for which I manage the U.S. operations.  SATBAT is funded by an International Clinical, Operational, and Health Services Research and Training Award (ICOHRTA) grant from the NIH Fogarty International Center.  The program pairs researchers and mentors at UNC and Johns Hopkins with three institutions in South Africa:  University of the Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University.  Focused on building research capacity in the areas of tuberculosis and AIDS research in South Africa, the training program is entering its third year.

The meeting was held in Cape Town, South Africa and coincided with the International AIDS Society meeting.  Because the focus is always on training, we set up the meeting to mimic the poster discussion format that is used at many international scientific meetings.  This gave the trainees—12 in all—some experience presenting research and fielding questions in this way.  Ten of the presenters have taken our “How to Write a Research Proposal” course and we anticipate many will participate in next year’s “How to Write a Scientific Paper.” Dr. Charles van der Horst, who is the UNC program director, made a point of tracking down each presenter during breaks in the action in order to provide immediate feedback on their presentations.

Dominique Pepper stands next to his poster presentation

Dominique Pepper stands next to his poster presentation

At the closing braai, the South African version of a barbeque (and like “barbeque,” “braai” is both a noun and a verb), three people received special recognition for their outstanding research and presentations.  These were: Gladys Kigozi (University of the Free State) for her abstract “Factors associated with uptake of HIV counseling and testing by TB patients in two districts of the Free State province, South Africa;” Dominique Pepper (University of Cape Town) for “Incidence of, and risk factors for clinical deterioration during TB treatment in Khayelitsha, South Africa;” and Kim Hoek (Stellenbosch University) for her paper “Single closed tube detection of drug-resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.”

Overall, it was a great day combining interesting research with learning opportunities and allowing trainees and mentors to meet with the five key program directors and also with Jeanne McDermott, our NIH Project Officer, without whom, we would not have a program.  Special thanks go to Heather Humphries, my counterpart at University of the Witwatersrand, and her team for pulling together such a nicely run meeting.  I look forward to next year!

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