Training the next generation of Nigerian researchers

Northwestern University’s Center for Global Health concludes week-long workshop

Sally McFall (far left) gives a tour of the Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies. (Photo by Morgan Searles)


EVANSTON - Senior Nigerian faculty researchers from the University of Ibadan completed a week-long training at Northwestern University’s Center for Global Health on Dec. 12. The program is designed to enhance research capacity, focusing on key scientific areas that address priority health needs in Nigeria.

These areas include: laboratory and clinical investigation of HIV and its long-term complications; genomics of infectious diseases; and neurologic diseases with an emphasis on stroke and seizure disorders.

Dr. Robert Murphy, director of the Center for Global Health at Northwestern, said the program increases capacity for junior faculty to conduct relevant research that contributes to improved health and fosters the next generation of faculty researchers in Nigeria.

The training is one part of a National Institutes of Health-funded grant in which the University of Ibadan is partnering with Northwestern and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Nine faculty members from Northwestern provided training in this workshop. Their specialties include infectious diseases, oncology, preventive medicine, biomedical engineering and urology. They also lectured on topics such as writing for peer review, sponsored research, translational research and research integrity.

Bridging the ‘know-do’ gap

“Using implementation science helps ensure the effective translation of new knowledge into clinical practice. Applying these scientific methods to implementation work helps bridge the know-do gap between research findings and improving human health in Nigeria,” said Lisa Hirschhorn, Professor of Medical Social Sciences and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern’s  Feinberg School of Medicine, who lectured on implementation science. 

An essential aspect of the workshop was to help strengthen senior faculty’s capacity to  mentor junior researchers.

“The mentoring lecture focused on the fundamental concepts of mentoring, exploring potential barriers to their implementation and collectively strategizing to find customized solutions that will work within the Nigerian research training system,” said Jane Holl, director of the Center for Education in Health Sciences at Northwestern, who presented on mentoring strategies.  

Participants in the workshop consisted of the Training Advisory Committee and mentors. Their goal was to mentor junior researchers at the University of Ibadan.

“What young researchers in Nigeria need is good mentors, exposure to international labs and opportunities to interact with international faculty,” said Ademola Fagbami, retired professor of virology at the University of Ibadan.

“When I was young, I was lucky to have such exposure,” he said. “There aren’t many of these opportunities nowadays. That’s why this program is great, and I’m confident it will help enhance the research capacity of young faculty at the University of Ibadan.”

Leading the way in global health

“Northwestern has always been at the forefront in the field of global health,” said Dévora Grynspan, vice president for international relations at Northwestern.

Among the first universities in the country to offer global health education and public health study abroad programs to undergraduates in the early 2000s, Northwestern has since established a Center for Global Health focused on medical education and research; McCormick’s Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies; Kellogg’s Global Health Initiative; and the School of Professional Studies’ Master of Science in Global Health online program.

On Oct. 25, the Campaign for the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern was launched in San Francisco. The future institute will focus on nine distinct centers in global health: education, infectious disease, primary care, global surgery, cancer, cardiovascular risk, brain and neurological disease, rehabilitation and eHealth distance learning.