Dr Donnie Mategula, Miss Melody Sakala and Dr Mphatso Dennis Phiri, pre-Master’s interns within the Malaria Research Group have each been awarded the prestigious Wellcome Trust Masters Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine that will support a 1-year master’s training in the United Kingdom from September 2017 and thereafter, an 18-month research project in Malawi.
Donnie is a physician who graduated from the University of Malawi, College of Medicine and intends to develop a career in medical epidemiology focusing on high burden diseases within low and middle income countries. He has a particular interest in contributing to accelerated malaria burden reduction through effective control in high risk groups such as pregnant women and young children and through robust monitoring and evaluation. As part of the fellowship, he will strengthen his epidemiology skills through an MSc Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and thereafter conduct a research project where he will follow up a birth cohort to evaluate the effect of prenatal malaria exposure on growth and vaccine immune responses. His study will be linked to an upcoming multi-site randomized control trial (MRC/WT/DFID Global Health Trial). His supervisors will be Dr Anja Terlouw, Dr Mwayi Madanitsa and Prof Feiko Ter Kuile. Commenting on his success, Donnie said: “I am highly delighted to have been awarded this life changing fellowship. I greatly owe it to the commitment, hard work and support from supervisors and peers that they showed during the application process. Through my MCDC pre-MSc internship at MLW (Wellcome Trust funded) and the support and mentorship I get from the malaria group career development programme, I was made a competitive candidate for this world class fellowship and for this I am sincerely thankful!”
Mphatso is a medical doctor who joined the MLW in 2015 through an ongoing part-time volunteer pre-MSc internship in the Malaria Group. He aspires to become a health systems researcher employing health economic evaluations in healthcare resource allocation. As part of his fellowship he will do an MSc in Epidemiology at LSHTM with additional health economics modules at the University of Warwick. For his research project, he will evaluate the costs and cost-effectiveness of additional vector control interventions (larval source management and house structure improvement/screening) when added to standard National Malaria Control Programme strategies within the Majete Malaria Project (MMP) in Chikwawa district, southern Malawi. Prof Bertie Squire and Dr Eve Worrall from LSTM will provide the health economics expertise, while Dr Anja Terlouw and Dr Linda Nyondo-Mipando will provide local supervision. Commenting on his achievement Mphatso said “I would like to dedicate this award to the Malaria Group (and its career development internship programme) and to my supervisors for being the cornerstones of this milestone achievement. I am also greatly indebted to Professor Kamija Phiri, Dr Rob McCann and Dr Alinune Kabaghe of the MMP for their tireless support throughout the application process, and I look forward to continuing working with them”.
Melody has a background of a Bachelor’s degree in Education majoring in Human Ecology obtained from the Chancellor College, University of Malawi. She aspires to become an international expert in health systems and policy research, particularly in the area of health policy development and knowledge translation in low and middle income countries. She would like to contribute to bridging the gap between knowledge generation through research and utilization by key users for translation into policy. She initially joined MLW in 2015 as a part-time volunteer intern, before securing a full time MLW pre-MSc internship. As part of her ongoing internship programme within MLW she has supported the National Malaria taskforce in developing the malaria research agenda for 2017 to 2020 and is currently on an internship secondment with AFIDEP in Lilongwe. As part of her fellowship she will undertake a Masters in Health Management, Planning and Policy at Leeds University. As her post MSc project she will evaluate the impact of the Evident network, a newly established national network of Ministry of Health, academic, and knowledge translation partners designed to strengthen research use and evidence-informed decision making in health in Malawi. Her primary supervisors for this project are Prof Bertie Squire, Dr Jenny Hill from LSTM and Dr Linda Mipando at MLW. Commenting on her achievement Melody responded, “I am thrilled to be awarded this prestigious fellowship. It means so much to me. It has been my longtime dream to do a Master’s focusing in health policy. I believe that the knowledge gained through this fellowship will help me contribute to health systems strengthen and evidence use in Malawi”
The malaria group internship programme led by Dr Anja Terlouw supports promising candidates at various postgraduate training levels to prepare them for their next career level. In addition to developing core research skills, the programme aims at equipping candidates with general skills like leadership, scientific writing and presenting and networking. The Malaria group has realized a 75% success rate in the just ended (August 2016) round of applications for the Wellcome Trust Masters Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Commenting on the group’s success with these fellowships, Anja responded “I am delighted with this result, both for the candidates and for the malaria group. Successful applications are never due to a single factor, it’s about bringing together a strong candidate, a high quality research project, a strong supervisory team, and a vibrant learning and training environment that offers good skills and career development opportunities. All four candidates did a great job, but their applications also represent a real team effort and I am grateful for all the support they got, including from their supervisory teams, the MLW and LSTM grants teams, our administrators, from Prof Rob Moodie who mentors them on developing their leadership skills, and lastly, from each other as peers. The candidates worked on this as a team, and it showed. And as for the fourth candidate who did not get her fellowship this time, that’s academia as well, we need to be resilient and persistent. We make sure we learn from both the successful and unsuccessful applications and apply those lessons to future applications. Building a team is a long-term effort, but seeing how well the students work together I look forward to leading the team and supporting them over the coming years”.