KUHeS HOLDS FIRST EVER RESEARCH DISSEMINATION CONFERENCE
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” argues Juliet Capulet in the famous William Shakespeare play; Romeo and Juliet in Act 2 Scene 2 to indicate that things are what they are regardless of what name you give them. However, this is not the case with the name Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS). This is a name that represents the merger of two giant colleges in the health sector in Malawi to form a name that will endeavor to be among the top Universities in Africa and across the globe. It is a name of a University that has put together a wealth of experience, expertise, knowledge and academic excellence to impart knowledge to students that will transform the country’s health sector into a robust and vibrant environment. This is a name that wants to contribute immensely to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially goal number 3 which aspires to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, Covid-19, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other communicable diseases. This is a name that totally comprehends that to achieve all this, not only is research important, but it is also a sine qua non; a necessity whose significance cannot be overemphasized.
While the aim of the University is to competitively impart knowledge and produce transferable skills through teaching, learning and application of knowledge, skills and aptitudes to meet professional needs of society at national, regional and global levels, KUHeS promotes research activities because it is through research that a University can be ranked high and be accorded the accolades it deserves. In this view, the University boasts of the presence of a Research Support Centre, a unique facility in Malawi and beyond, whose sole mandate is to support research activities at the University.
To disseminate research activities done by the University and other academic and research institutions, all roads led to KUHeS from 24th – 25th November 2022 where the University organized a research feast for researchers, policy makers, students and the general public. With over 80 oral and 181 poster presentations, KUHeS set the stage for impeccable, engaging and thought-provoking research discourse when it hosted its first ever Research Dissemination Conference since its inception as a new University. The conference was held under the theme “Excellence for life; Through multidisciplinary Research and Innovations”. This 2-day conference set to signify the best that is yet to come out of this newly launched giant of a University in the research space. The 24th November 2022 shall go down in history as the day when the University manifested its research agenda to the world through this mighty conference.
The main aim of having this conference was for researchers to share their research findings, network with other researchers and help inform policy. Many a time, organisers of the conference said they would like government to formulate policies based on evidence and such conferences as the Research Dissemination Conference are of immeasurable significance to policy makers. Hence the conference had representation from policy makers.
During the conference, participants discussed and reflected on improving quality of health through multidisciplinary research and innovations in Malawi. Presentations will dwell on the following thematic areas: Nutrition, Mental Health, Infectious diseases, Clinical Management, Environmental Health, Social Science in Health, Health Systems and Policy, Non-communicable diseases, Epidemiology and Public Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health.
Adding pomp and glamour to this debut conference was the legendary Police Band who led KUHeS staff, researchers and students into a jovial and ecstatic parade before the plenary session to mark the launch of the Research Dissemination Conference. Organisers of the conference also felt they could add a piquant flavour to the conference hence they courted Professor Louise Kenny who is the Executive Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool. Prof. Kenny flew into Malawi with knowledge and expertise from Europe to set the ball rolling at the conference as a Keynote Speaker in the opening session. Also gracing the conference was Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Honourable Agnes NyaLonje MP who graced the occasion as the guest of honor.
The first day went on to follow a sequenced line of research presentations and breakaway sessions. The pinnacle of the conference was the evening when the researchers were drawn in one room for deliberations on one hot topic during a special session dubbed ‘Science Café’. During the Science Café, panelists discussed the topic ‘Scientific Evidence on Medical Marijuana in Malawi and the Psychosocial Implications’. This session had experts deliberating on the psychosocial implications of Marijuana.
However, all work no play makes Jack a dull boy. Having had a long day filled with presentations and discussions, the scientific minds were treated to a cocktail party which run concurrently with the first-ever Research Excellence awards. The awards were given in recognition of staff from KUHeS and its research affiliates (Blantyre Malaria Project, John Hopkins Project, Malaria Alert Centre, Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit) who made a significant and astounding impact in the field of research through their professional and mentorship accomplishments. Research presentations continued on the second day which were followed by awards to outstanding presenters to wrap up the conference.
The conference had over 700 attendees with some of these coming from Europe and across Africa.
When all is said and done, the million-dollar question still remains; KUHeS has been doing research for a long time, but what’s there to show for it? What has the research yielded so far? Well, KUHeS glories in several achievements in the research space. Just to mention but a few, the University pioneered the Mother to Child HIV Transmission prevention, Malaria vaccine, and have had recommendations on several interlinked clinical trials and observational studies on the prevention of death and disease in children who have had severe anaemia after they have been discharged from the hospital accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO).