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Viviendo en el mundo real: mi experiencia como auxiliar médico para investigar enfermedades infecciosas en Liberia

Living in the Real World: My Experience as a Physician Assistant to Conduct Research on Infectious Diseases in Liberia

I had a wonderful opportunity to apply as a candidate to the Training Programme in Diagnostics Research (TPDxR), which was part of the joint ISGlobal, Liberia Medicines and Health products Regulatory Authority, NGO Juan Ciudad and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Hospital IGORCADIA project. This project seeks to improve local capacities for research on diagnostics for infectious diseases in Liberia.

Participating in the Training Programme in Diagnostics Research (TPDxR) helped me correct my wrong perceptions on health research

Participating in the TPDxR helped me correct my wrong perceptions on health research. I used to believe that only researchers and their collaborating partners benefit from research. And I doubted that researchers respected many ethical principles. For instance, I was convinced that the identity of subjects with deadly illnesses that participate in research was more likely to be exposed, and that the participants’ rights to leave research at anytime was just a mere statement. I thought that the informed consent process was just another way of encouraging people to participate in research and that it only responded to researchers’ selfish motives. Many of my coworkers share such beliefs. As a trained physician assistant at the Saint Joseph’s Catholic Hospital, I think that the knowledge I acquired at the TPDxR could help me start an institutional dialogue to change my coworkers’ wrong mindset on clinical research in Liberia and elsewhere.

To obtain a degree certificate from a paramedical school in Liberia, everyone must do a research as her/his final school work, to prove her/his level of discernment and ability to reason. This was my case when I was in college pursuing my physician assistant certificate. It has always appeared to me that research was very difficult. Often, during school, there was no clear guidance for our final research and we had limited resources to do it. We also feared to receive a harsh review from evaluation panel members and we hid our research from our colleagues because we feared plagiarism. At the TPDxR, I learnt that research can in fact be fun.

IGORCADIA has reinforced my knowledge of the international standards that all quality research must meet

Importantly, after taking part in two workshops in Good Clinical and Laboratory practice and in quantitative research approaches to diagnostics research, IGORCADIA has reinforced my knowledge of the international standards that all quality research must meet. Among other topics, I have learnt about ethics and informed consent processes; the design of diagnostic accuracy, feasibility and acceptability studies; as well as the safe handling, storage and shipment of infectious specimens.

The workshops were also a great experience to learn from people coming from diverse backgrounds. I enjoyed the viewpoints shared throughout all training sessions. One important topic discussed that I will always remember was that of BioBanking. I realized that a well-equipped and arranged BioBank that provides human blood specimens is behind every successful diagnostics research project. Everyone gave valuable opinions about the importance of BioBanking for our country, Liberia, and about how we could try to establish and maintain a BioBank to support diagnostics research at the Saint Joseph’s Catholic Hospital laboratory.

We are currently getting prepared to implement our first diagnostics research project in Liberia

I am sure that I will fully apply all the knowledge I gained, and that, by doing so, I will contribute to improving the quality of clinical research led by my institution. In applying this knowledge, I will prioritize dialogue with fellow colleagues and coworkers. We, the TPDxR trainees, are currently getting prepared to implement our first diagnostics research project in Liberia. I am really looking forward to engaging in further research opportunities within IGORCADIA and to explore and put into practice everything I have learnt.

Nota: Las personas que integran ISGlobal persiguen ideas innovadoras con total independencia. Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son, por tanto, a título personal y no necesariamente reflejan el posicionamiento institucional.

Mandella King

Student and Co-Investigator at the IGORCADIA Project, Liberia

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