From medicine to epidemiology: An abiding interest in malaria research

25 Feb 2021

To support the effective conduct of PAMAfrica’s three clinical programs, Work Package 4 focuses on strengthening both research capacity at trial sites and the research capability of African scientists. The ultimate goal is to build a scientific network to nurture the next generation of African researchers. Ten candidates, one PhD and one MSc from each of the five participating partner sites, will be selected to enroll in long-term academic training to set them on a career path as leaders in scientific research.

Dr Jean Wendepouiré Sawadogo, the second candidate selected for this program, is currently working at GRAS and started a master’s degree in Epidemiology-Biostatistics at Witwatersrand university in Johannesburg.

1. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I qualified as a medical doctor in 2018 (University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso). In 2019, I joined a wonderful team at the Groupe de Recherche Action en Santé (GRAS). As a clinician, I am involved in the assessment of the health status relevant to study endpoints (efficacy and/or safety) of trial participants. I have participated in the implementation of malaria drug/vaccine trials and epidemiology studies.

2. What are your first impressions about your MSc training program at Witwatersrand?

The MSc program was formally kicked off on 18 January 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic has obliged the courses to take place online until South Africa launches its vaccination program. Despite this situation, the teaching staff is committed to the successful delivery of the program. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and places. Together, we have developed strategies to stay in constant in touch and work in groups to achieve the goals.

3. Why is epidemiology-biostatistics important in malaria drug research?

To acquire new knowledge, to develop new control strategies and to formulate new malaria drugs, it is necessary to know and understand the dynamics of this disease. Epidemiology will provide us with the tools to design relevant research projects and to collect quality data, which also requires appropriate skills in statistical analysis.

4. Once you’ve completed your MSc, what next?

After the completion of my training, I will return to my research institution in Burkina Faso. I intend to work in my institution for a minimum of 2 years after this training. I will implement my new knowledge and skills in the field of research on malaria and other diseases in general. Also, I will share my knowledge with my colleagues. After that, I would like to pursue a thesis in the field of malaria epidemiology to reinforce what I have learned.