To encourage junior faculty at African academic institutions to pursue research careers, the NIH is awarding up to $36.5 million over five years in the next phase of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Sub-Saharan Africa bears almost a quarter of the global disease burden, yet has only 3% of the world’s health workforce, according to the World Health Organization.
Since 2010, MEPI awards have been transforming medical education across the region by strengthening curricula, upgrading community-based training sites, and expanding communications technology and e-learning resources. Some funding also has been devoted to providing faculty with dedicated research time and other incentives designed to promote retention, but many junior-level staffers lack the necessary resources to incorporate research into their careers.
“Research must play an integral part in generating sustainable, quality health care in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the ultimate goal,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “It is critical that we increase research capacity so Africans can carry out locally relevant investigations themselves, and develop the necessary expertise in areas such as bioethics, informatics, environmental science, and genomics. That will empower their participation in international collaborations.”
MEPI was designed to increase the number of skilled health care workers and strengthen the scientific base in countries supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provided significant funding in MEPI’s initial phase. In addition to developing much-needed human resources to diagnose and treat patients, the program helped enable evidence-based decision making to improve the effectiveness and impact of the U.S. investment. It is also intended to cultivate scientists who can determine the most efficient ways to expand the treatment platform built for HIV/AIDS to address other illnesses, including the chronic diseases that are a growing cause of disability and death in the region.
In 11 awards to grantees in eight countries, the new MEPI funding round will support junior faculty training in research management, methodology, ethics, mentorship, preparation of scientific publications and grant writing. The program will strengthen the research culture of grantee institutions and facilitate broader support for junior faculty collaborations that will help sustain and expand progress made in the initial term of the MEPI program. Faculty trainees will develop new skills in the research fields most relevant to their communities and bring cutting-edge expertise to their institutions, allowing their scientists to increase their participation in global and regional research collaborations.
Joining Fogarty as funding partners are the NIH Common Fund; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute of Nursing Research; National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; Office of AIDS Research; and Office of Research on Women's Health.