July 9, 2012

African Bioethics Program receives NIH continuation grant

The Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is planning its second decade of building capacity in research ethics across sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to a five-year grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

In the program, an African institution is selected each year to send scholars to the Berman Institute, where they spend six months engaged in course work, seminars, intensive mentoring and leadership training. The funding then provides support for these individuals to complete a six-month practicum project in research ethics at their home African institution.

“We were first funded by Fogarty to start this program 12 years ago, when there were few opportunities for training in research ethics within Africa. We are honored and humbled to be awarded an additional five years of funding by the NIH,” said Nancy Kass, co-director of the program and deputy director for public health at the Berman Institute. “Many of our FABTP alumni have become recognized international ethics experts, and we look forward to this continued funding that will allow more African institutions to develop sustainable bioethics and research ethics centers,” she said.

Oliver Mweemba, a 2012 Fogarty Scholar from the University of Zambia’s School of Medicine, said that he wants to enhance research ethics education at his home institution, and his practicum project will develop and implement a curriculum for researchers, educators and staff. Mweemba teaches health promotion, social medicine and qualitative methods to undergraduate and graduate students. He has also been involved in HIV prevention research projects at both the national and international levels, and consulted on the Population Council’s study in Zambia on the impact of male circumcision on sexual behavior and condom use negotiations.

“The Fogarty training program in bioethics has been an eye-opener for me on the links between politics, social justice and health,” Mweemba said. “Working with experienced academics in the field provided a unique experience for sharing and discussing global issues in bioethics, as well as providing me with an ethics platform to critically analyze not only moral issues in doing research but also contextualize the research agenda in the global contest of power. My goal is to pass on this experience and skills to folks in Zambia,” he said.

Adnan Hyder, co-director of the Fogarty program and associate director for global programs at the Berman Institute, said that the program’s true strength comes from scholars like Mweemba, who continue research ethics development in their home countries. “Through our scholars, the Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program has a lasting impact,” Hyder said. “Fogarty bioethics scholars build research ethics capacity across Africa by implementing lessons and projects developed in the program for long-term benefit.”

Kass and Hyder, along with their colleague Joseph Ali, recently published a paper in the journal Developing World Bioethics looking back on the first nine years of the program; it’s available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-8847.2012.00331.x/abstract.

In addition to the University of Zambia, in recent years the program has partnered with the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and with the Office of Research and Development at the University of Botswana.

“The Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program is a cornerstone of our Global Bioethics Program at the Berman Institute,” said Ruth Faden, director of the Berman Institute. “Thanks to this continued funding, we are looking forward to continuing the program and expanding institutional support for our Fogarty scholars as they implement their practicum projects.”

The program is currently accepting applications for 2013 partner institutions, which if selected will send up to four scholars for training at The Johns Hopkins University and Berman Institute. Eligible institutions include universities, hospitals, nongovernmental organizations and governmental institutions from sub-Saharan Africa that fund, regulate, conduct, oversee or provide training related to health research with human beings.

For more information on the Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program, go to fabtp.com.