Monday, May 30, 2016

Closer to the finish line...

Hello Everyone!

It’s a damp, restful Monday here in Lagos, Nigeria.. one of those Mondays you don't 'hate'!. 

Today, is a public holiday as we commemorate “Democracy day” in my country - the day Nigeria officially transitioned from a military government to a democratic government in 1999.  Also, I totally embrace the refreshing rainy seasons that are now finally here, it's been providing us with intermittent cool weather to balance the intensity of the sun.

So, I am excited to be completing my full Masters coursework this upcoming June. I just completed “Global Aid” last week and I am currently undertaking the final coursework “Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)”. STI marks the end of my taught courses and my second year as an ODL Masters student at The University of Edinburgh. I would thereafter proceed to my research project which is already in discussions with my course coordinators.

Global Aid was a great course for me as it involved a lot of intellectual exposure outside my core area of interest in Global/Public Health. We were introduced to the current global aid models and we tackled various controversies (with good reasons) surrounding the current global aid models especially in developing countries. A lot of issues were debated upon – Has aid really been effective in its work goals? Should aid really continue? What are the more effective and viable alternatives to global aid that would have real impact on global sustainable development? Or how can aid delivery be better and more effective to reaching the people that really need them? These and many more issues were debated at length in our discussions as we utilized evidence-based information and drew experiences from our professional lives and respective countries. This was indeed intellectually stimulating and I am glad I undertook the course. 

Another funny story about the course though. As some of us may be aware, my country has been undergoing some financial and economic crisis in the last few months due to consistently falling global oil prices, government removal of fuel subsidy, increased fuel scarcity and fuel hike, subsequent poor power supply nationwide and other consequent issues. Anyway, these issues have had direct and indirect effects on everyone. So, inadvertently, the power/fuel scarcity issues has greatly affected my study time and ability to submit my essay assignments on time. So, for my final course essay for Global Aid, I submitted a little beyond the stipulated and immediately notified my course coordinator of my circumstance. I was given a “special circumstance” form to fill and this would be considered by exam coordinators to determine if late submission penalties would be implemented for me or not. So, I’m glad it has been resolved to an extent and I look forward to a positive outcome from the “special circumstance”.

So with my current course - “Sexually transmitted diseases”, I am looking forward improving my understanding of the subject. I have some considerable experience and interest in this course as I have been co-running a social impact project (called Project AHEAD) in adolescent health education in my community for about 2 years now. A key part of what we do in this project is to promote education and advocacy on sexual health promotion. Therefore, I intend to expand my horizon greatly on this course and learn as much as I can that I can implement directly to my work here.


Before I round up on this, I must appreciate the support that I have gotten from the various relevant departments at The University of Edinburgh and from my ODL colleagues since I last announced my the inception of my blog - MyAnimal,MyHealth. I am committed to working in my capacity to promote global health and this support has greatly encouraged me in this regard.

Thank you all!

.... And until next time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

NTDs and the great news!



Hello Esteemed Readers!


Happy Holidays in arrears to everyone who celebrated the Easter Holidays. It’s been a restful and long weekend here in Nigeria thanks to the Easter holidays which ended just yesterday (Easter Monday).  


So, I am currently rounding up the course, “Neglected Tropical Diseases”. One thing I have enjoyed about the course so far is the engaging discussions between all course participants. I guess that because the previous course didn’t provide that opportunity for open discussions with colleagues, I had somewhat missed the discussion board and was happy to have it back. The discussions board has a way of stimulating your thoughts and opens you up to more learning than you would have had with just the basic lecture materials. Besides, sharing ideas and having (safe) arguments with your colleagues exposes you to different thoughts and experiences. And this gets better if you have a very diverse class like mine with students from almost every continent. As the course is rounding up and we are all required to submit our written assessments, I can presume that we are all currently neck-deep in finalizing our essays. This is one of those essays where you to choose a position (for or against) on a topic and you are required to defend your chosen stance with evidence-based critical thinking and justifiable reasons. . It seems to be much more work than I initially thought and I hope it works out just fine!


So in my previous post, I mentioned that I had some great news coming up. Well, here it is!!! (**drum-rolls**)


During the summer school (I know I never really did finish the summer school series, pardon me)… I was inspired to start up a virtual platform that would be a go-to resource place to educate the general public on relevant animal-human health topics in a simplified, interesting and engaging manner. As a veterinarian, I understand that in my country, there is so much ambiguity and ignorance on the aspect of animal health, animal welfare and zoonoses. This has led to abuse and quackery on so many levels, under-appreciation of quality and professional animal health care and on a larger scale, transmission of zoonoses. Undertaking this project had always been on my mind but I was inspired to take action on it when I had some related discussions with my some of my colleagues. I discussed my idea with Yusuf (my Nigerian colleague) and of course, things got fashioned out from there.


Well, after about 5 months of planning, challenges and maybe a little bit of procrastination, I finally launched the MyAnimal,MyHealth Network. This website is a virtual educational and public engagement platform that will provide information, learning and news on various clinical and public health issues and solutions to animal and human health in Nigeria. My amazing team and I decided to focus on Nigeria until we are sure we have the capacity to expand to other sub-Saharan countries.


The site launched officially on March 1 with accompanying social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. It’s great to know that the network is growing and currently has a followership of over a thousand people on Facebook. I am happy with the engagement so far as we constantly receive some messages of encouragement and lots of messages on inquiry or questions based on our various topics of discussion. Of course, in establishing this momentum and order, we will continue to work on improving our structure and content for better effectiveness.  


So, just in case you are interested or you would like to support this initiative (which I would appreciate so much) you can visit the website (www.myanimalmyhealth.org) and subscribe to our posts. Better still, you can like our page on Facebook (MyAnimal,MyHealth) or simply follow us on Twitter @manimalmhealth.


Lest I forget, a fun part of starting up MyAnimal,MyHealth Network was having the opportunity to learn about building a website from scratch, all thanks to know-it-all Google. Due to a major disappointment from a professional who was supposed to build the site (one of the “challenges” I encountered), I pushed myself to learn something new and totally unfamiliar – building a website. It took me a lot of errors, consumed time and internet data (Oh yeah... Internet is quite expensive here) but I’m so glad I did! 

I am grateful and look forward to greater things with this.


So, off to continue with my written assessment and then myanimalmyhealth.org


A plus tard … Ciao!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

From PCM to NTDs…



Hello Dear Readers,

It’s already a very sunny morning here in Lagos, Nigeria. I should mention that it has been unbearably hot so for a while now and in fact, I saw an amusing post on a friend’s Facebook wall recently which read: 
  
Dear Sun,

You are still the hottest on the planet. No one is competing with you.

Concerned Nigerians

Yeah, it’s been that hot and I really look forward to the rainy season.

So, I just completed my course on “Project Cycle Management” (PCM) and I enjoyed every bit of it. Most importantly, I learned so much that I can now utilize for all of my work and projects. I learned both theoretically and practically, which I think is a great and effective way to transfer knowledge on this course. I got a proper introduction into the “business” of development aid especially the relationship between donor countries, partner countries and international development organization. I learned the essence of evaluating of aid effectiveness, the importance of effective partnerships between donor and partner countries, project ownerships and capacity development for sustainable development. 

For the core practical aspect, I learned first-hand the applicability of log frames and budgeting including a basic foundation in monitoring and evaluation. The group assignment was a great tool for learning these things as my group and I worked across locations to complete an actual proposal for a 3-year Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. Needless to say, I had a wonderful team to work with and we all learned from each other in a lot of ways. We communicated majorly through Skype and despite the enormous differences in time, distance and our busy schedules; we completed the assignment in good time. Overall, I believe we all did a great job with our contributions and team work.

I just started another course on Neglected Tropical diseases (NTDs). I selected this course as one of my electives because of its core relevance to my country, Nigeria. As a developing country with embattling issues such as relatively high level of poverty and health inequalities, these set of diseases are encountered regularly. So, you can understand my choice and enthusiasm to learn on the course.

Now, in other news...... I have some great and exciting NEWS that I will be announcing shortly….

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy New Year, Happy New Semester.


BONNE ANEE!!!!!


Yeah that was me attempting to show off a little French. I have been taking French lessons and making use of the Duolingo Language App; highly recommended if you wish to learn any European language. But I digress….

Seriously, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!!! 


Its 2016 and we made it! That’s a whole lot to be grateful for. 


I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. Here in Nigeria, the holiday period seemed longer than most because the holidays and weekends were all clustered together giving us five continuous work-free days. Let me explain – In case you didn’t know, Nigeria’s two major religions are Islam and Christianity. Now, for the first time ever, (since I was born anyway), Ed-il-Malud, the Muslim celebration for the birth of Mohammed, preceded Christmas day on Thursday 24th December. Subsequently, Friday 25th December was Christmas Day and Saturday was Boxing Day. Now the norm in Nigeria is to move any celebration that falls on a weekend (Saturday and Sunday) to the next working day (usually a Monday) - which was exactly what happened! Throughout the holidays, I did a lot of cooking, hosting of visiting extended family members (in the family house), meeting up with friends and binge-watched all 7 seasons of “Modern Family”. Watching Modern Family was a time well spent – I laughed mostly, got misty-eyed sometimes and learned some life lessons.


So, 2016, how is it going to be? What do you expect?


Well, for me, I expect to find happiness in whatever I do, wherever I go and in my life aspirations. Finding happiness and fulfillment and aiming for a better ME will be my key drivers for my decision-making. And as I believe in God, I recognize that I am human but I expect and pray to always do His will and be a blessing to humanity. Life is short and can be silly, but Life can be happy just as much. Ensure you DO YOU!


So I “resumed school” officially yesterday and I was literarily bombarded with the loads of academic work waiting for me already. I am now starting a new 10-credit course called “Introduction to Project Cycle Management”. As much as I felt bombarded, I also felt ready to dig in and learn as much as I can because this is one of my most career-relevant courses. Also, it was interesting to find out that as part of the course activities, my colleagues and I have been divided into teams of 3 and 4 to work together on a graded group project. Interestingly, this group project perfectly imitates the situation that usually exists in real-life core international development practice where time-zone difference of respective team members is common and virtual correspondence is necessary. So, I guess this is quite fitting in this circumstance as an ODL student. BIG cheers to a new year and a new academic semester and I look forward to another time of learning and capacity building as an ODL student. Also, I wish you all the best in your academics, careers, families and personal life. Expect great things this year and most importantly, expect to live happy!


P.S - Don’t be surprised if my next post would be entirely written in French (LOL!)


Have a happy 2016!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hello Everyone!

Today started on a cold dry note that comes with the harmattan season in Nigeria. As usual, the weather is cold (for a tropical environment) and dry, the environment is very dusty and excitement is building up everywhere for the upcoming end-of-year holidays. As expected, the Christmas/New Year holidays mean a lot to people all over the world and based on background, environment, culture and personal experiences, it entails varying activities. Well for me, apart from the usual colors, ceremonies, fanfare and religious activities, the Christmas holidays mean lots of exciting reunions with friends and families. There are parties, get-togethers, church programs, live concerts, road trips, picnics, short vacations and other social activities that keep you afloat and refreshed till you are sorry when it is all over.  I think that for most Nigerians, this period is almost an equivalent of the summer break in the western world. Therefore, these holidays are annual robust experiences that I always look forward to and that I am grateful for.

As an ODL student, the holidays mean ….. well …. HOLIDAYS! Currently, I have completed my semester courses and I presume that most full time students should be currently rounding up with their exams now.

This session, studying has indeed been quite exciting and engaging. My last two courses were basically focused on “Zoonotic diseases” with topics skittering around global efforts at zoonotic disease control. As my colleagues and I (together with our course supervisor) discussed on these topics together we were introduced to a globally relevant topic that has been trending for a while now in development circles. Just in case you seemed to have missed it, I introduce to you to the Sustainable Development Goals, also known in its short form as SDGs. The SDGs is a new global development agenda with a target timeline for 2030 that builds on the Millennium Development Goals (which ends this year). The goals spread its focuses on various key pillars of development that need to be addressed in our present world. These issues as shown in the diagram below include health, poverty alleviation, economic development, inequalities, environmental protection, climate change, global security etc.


Most of our class discussions on SDGs centered around the 3rd SDG as that goal had the core relevance to our studies and profession in global health. Generally, these courses gave all of us the opportunity to contribute thoughts, experiences and suggestions on the SDGs and how to bring about its effective implementation. Based on our course discussions on the SDGs, we all agreed that it is necessary for the SDGs to move from simple rhetoric to core implementation in all sectors and communities worldwide.

Therefore, as we go about our daily lives, this is a global wake-up call for everyone irrespective of profession, socioeconomic status, race and religion to work cohesively and stay united in the quest to positively sustain our world to secure our future. This unity is even more essential in light of the recent global threats to human security which if not tackled wisely, might lead to a structural breakdown of civilization and have a negative ripple effect on other pillars of development. Therefore, our unity in purpose, efforts and actions towards holistic sustainable development is necessary and we all need to consciously lay aside our differences to work out vision 2030 towards our safety and well-being. To maintain this for ourselves and our future generations, our health must be promoted, environment must be sustained, our economies must be developed and our lives must be secured.
Vision SDG 2030 might seem like an over-ambitious, over-arching goal, but it can be achieved with each person's CONSCIOUS ACTON STEPS.

As we enjoy the holidays and spread cheer and goodwill, let this guide our thoughts towards the new year goals. For real, let each of us add at least one SDG to our resolutions and goals and ACT on them, who knows how much we might achieve?

Happy Holidays in advance!

Cheers!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Kigali III... And Now

Tuesday was business as usual as we received lectures from Ms Marshall Dozier, Ms Beatrice Niragire, Dr. Jenna Fyfe and Professor Michael Thrusfield. Professor Thrusfied continued his educative lectures on Basic statistics and Epidemiology with a core focus on observational studies.

Afterwards, Jenna gave a very fun and interactive talk on "Dissertations - students and supervisors". Together, we had detailed discussions on the expectations of respective dissertation students and supervisors during the dissertation year especially as an ODL student. Here, she gave us various advices and tips on establishing and improving our relationship with supervisors that will aid considerable progress in our respective dissertations and projects. She also shared some of her experiences as a dissertation supervisor and even invited one of her previous project student to share his experience when he worked with her on his dissertation.

Marshall then shared tips with us on dissertation and referencing. She was joined in this talk by Ms Beatrice Niragire, a Librarian from the University of Rwanda, who interestingly specializes in Public Health online resources. So together, Marshall and Beatrice gave an enlightening presentation with practical demonstrations on utilizing library resources, literature search, organization and referencing. Lest I forget, Marshall left for Edinburgh the same night as she had official duties to attend to at  UoE. We all gave her warm goodbye hugs and took beautiful goodbye pictures.

Marshall and I

Marshall and some GHA Summer School participants - Time to say goodbye...

Photo credits: Yusuf Alimi and Kikiope Oluwarore

The day ended way beyond schedule and I was left with no choice but to get some well-deserved rest and attend to some personal and official business. However, some of us went for a fun night-out at an Italian restaurant in the city.

And there went another #GHAKigali experience.


So, a little dish on the present….
This session has been an interesting and speedy one so far. Maybe because I am taking a total 6 courses throughout the duration of the session, everything just seems to be so short and so fast.  Currently, I have a new tutor and my previous tutor is the coordinator for my current course - Zoonotic diseases. Zoonoses is a field I am particularly interested in because of its relevance to my educational background, career, my country and other sub-saharan African communities.

We have been given our term assignments, the format of which frankly took me aback at first. In this assignment, we have been presented with a hypothetical call for application for funding of a research project on a selected zoonotic disease. Each of us would submit an application to the to the hypothetical Trust and then undertake a guided peer-reviewed assessment of each others’ application.  Though, I was initially surprised at this assignment format is not som, I quickly realized that this was a real-life scenario presented before us. At some point in our career, most of us would be required to apply this knowledge. Infact, as researchers, scientists, academicians, clinicians, public health and development workers working in our various fields and questions in the health sector, this was an aspect that none of us could avoid in our profession. And I got to really appreciate the ingenuity of the course supervisor in using this to challenge our thinking and helping us to make resourceful use and application of the knowledge that we are acquiring.

.... Until next time!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Something about Kigali (II)



Monday at the Hilltop Hotel, Kigali Rwanda started on a very cold note (for me coming from the tropics). I headed out just in time to grab a quick breakfast before heading to our seminar room at exactly 9:00am. By now, almost everyone (including participants and GHA officials) were seated. Later that morning, we would have ODL students from Kenya and another from Uganda arrive for the summer school. 

The day started with a warm welcome from the Summer School organizer, Lisa Wood, who we all later agreed was one of the most organized person in the world!  Afterwards, we all a good time introducing ourselves (all 20-something of us) giving short details on our course of study, area of work, countries and a little bit of fun-facts here and there.

Dr. Liz Grant then gave a welcome speech in which she reiterated the need for a multi-disciplinary one health approach to solving Global health challenges; a core focus of the Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh. She also discussed the newly established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which she mentioned as a very core part of our lives as students and health professionals, as we work to make the world a healthier place for all. She also chipped in a short note on her passion/work in Palliative care and gave a brief introduction on Dr Mhiora Leng, our upcoming keynote speaker for the welcome dinner coming up later that evening. Generally, I found Dr. Grant’s speech quite moving and inspiring especially when she got to the topic of Palliative care and medicine. I had never given the subject that much thought until then and at that point, it suddenly became more meaningful and important to me. 

A short coffee break followed and then we had Professor Michael Thrusfield lecture us on some basics in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Of course, this was not the first time any of us had any encounter with Epidemiology and basic statistics but apparently, a good number of us had struggled with it in the past. However, Professor Thrusfield was such a patient and detailed teacher, as he took his time to start from scratch and give us building foundational blocks on Epidemiology and Biostatistics. We had frequent short practice times which were very helpful in applying our understanding of the topics. I met with him after the class for further explanation on some problems I had with the topic and he was indeed obliging.

After lunch (and lots of networking!), the sweet soft-voiced Ms. Marshall Dozier handled an interactive session with us where she spoke on tips and tricks of Literature search as a student of The University of Edinburgh. Ah… we learned so many erstwhile unknown tricks ranging from the use of Mendeley and endnotes to organization of files to accessiing full text of abstracts in journals etc. it was altogether a cohesive and interactive learning experience and Marshall was ever so patient to answer all of our questions.

This ended our session for the day but there we still a social event to later in the evening – the welcome dinner!

The Welcome dinner was one of the Summer School highlights for me. Now, without exactly planning it, Yusuf and I came dressed up in our traditional Nigerian attire. This caused quite a scene and in all modesty, I guess it added some color to the overall social gathering. After the initial networking session, Mhiora Leng was invited to give her speech on Palliative care and medicine. In the speech, she gave us some insights into her work especially in Uganda and around East Africa. She enlightened us on the need to promote Palliative care and institutionalize it in health systems in African communities. She also explained that Palliative care takes into consideration the emotional, spiritual, psychological and socioeconomic factors of health-care especially in cases of terminal illnesses. It was quite impactful and I am sure that everyone who listened had one or two key points to take away. I did.
 Yusuf and I in our ethnic Nigerian attire 




Excerpts from "Auld lang sang "

Picture credits - Charity Waweru

Thereafter, to keep the “party” going, we had song presentations from each table representatives. James Akoko taught us an interesting Kenyan folk song, I presented (after some “sabotaging”) a Yoruba song from my native Nigeria and Mhiora gave a nice rendition of an English song. Thereafter, Mhiora made us form a big circle (“….. like your mother’s cooking pot” - as said from my place in Nigeria) and we sang “Auld Lang Sang” while doing the accompanying Scottish dance. 

Later that evening, I thought, even though I was slightly frustrated with the hotel for their somewhat erratic internet connection and for the hot water tap that kept gushing out cold water, I was still glad to be in the beautiful city, Kigali.

.... Till the next series of #KigaliSummerSchool, Ciao!