Establishment of a foundation can go a long way in aiding Makerere University mobilise funding without the faculty getting lost in the long and often windy processes of resource mobilisation. This is one of the avenues the University of Minnesota is able to generate funding for most of its collaborative undertakings; through the Minnesota Medical Foundation.
This resource mobilisation strategy was shared by the visiting Professor Aaron Friedman, the Vice President for Health Sciences and also the Dean of Medicine of the University of Minnesota, USA. Professor Friedman is visiting Makerere University├ö├ç├ûs College of Health Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security.
Professor Friedman was accompanied by Professor Chandy John, Director of the Division of Global Pediatrics, and a member of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota and Professor Paul R. Bohjanen from the Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota.
The purpose of the visit is to see the collaborative work between Makerere University and the University of Minnesota and to assess how this collaboration could further be advanced.
In a meeting with the Principal Professor Nelson Sewankambo and Deputy Principal, Professor Celestino Obua, of the College of Health Sciences, the two teams noted that one of the areas that need strengthening is research in basic sciences where very limited research is currently going on. The suggestion was that people in basic sciences should be brought on board when proposals are being developed so that basic sciences research issues are included at that level.
It was also suggested that MakCHS could consider trying out the American system where most people have a leg in both clinical and basic sciences.
Under the University of Minnesota-Makerere University collaboration, the following are some of the projects being undertaken;
- Study focusing on the connection between cerebral malaria and cognitive impairment in children. In here the study team is trying to understand pathogenicity and also trying out interventions at community level, like caregiver training that improves the caregiver-child interaction and how this it turn improves the child├ö├ç├ûs cognition.
- The RESPOND project where the College of Health Sciences, through the School of Public Health, and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-Security, are involved. The RESPOND project focuses on building infrastructure to be able to handle emerging infections and pandemics.
- The Test-and-Treat partnership with the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), where health workers go to identified communities and test the residents for HIV, and those that test positive are treated. The purpose of this initiative is to be able to reduce the transmission of HIV. Dr. Paul Bohjanen however who was part of the Minnesota delegation noted that this is a very expensive strategy and has not yet received funding.
- Cryptococcal meningitis environmental sampling, which has provided important results regarding where it is found in the environment and hoe t can be prevented
Professor Friedman (second right) emphasising a point to his host, Professor Sewankambo (in black jacket).
The team later held a meeting with the Makerere University Vice Chancellor Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, who noted that there is so much that goes into and comes out of such collaborations yet the would-be beneficiaries do not know much.
He therefore pledged that a mini-website will be developed on the university website dedicated to collaborative efforts between Makerere University and other universities and institutions.
Professor Baryamureeba also called upon the Ministry of Health to develop a budget for the financing of translating research and innovations to policy, practice and other products. He said units like the College of Health Sciences can then access such funds and work with the Ministry, instead of spending teaching and research time in mobilisation of funds for such work.
Regarding efforts at the College in this direction, Professor Sewankambo pointed out that MakCHS is the first in the entire university to have created an innovations and knowledge translation position as an attempt to bridge the research-knowledge-policy-practice gap.
Professor Venansius Baryamureeba and Professor Aaron Friedman (centre) shaking hands after the meeting that explored how collaborations between the two universities can be strengthened