UNC wins grant to train HIV doctors in Africa

April 24, 2008 — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded a training fellowship from the Gilead Foundation to provide doctors from the African nation of Malawi with postdoctoral training in internal medicine.

UNC wins grant to train HIV doctors in Africa click to enlarge Dr. Cecelia Kanyama

Among the poorest nations in the world, Malawi is the site of the UNC Project, a research, care and training facility in the country’s capital, Lilongwe. The facility is a collaborative venture between UNC and Kamuzu Central Hospital.

Malawi has the lowest physician per capita ratio in the world: Two physicians per 100,000 people. Not only are doctors hard to come by, but they are also woefully under trained, said Irving Hoffman, P.A., M.P.H., the Chapel Hill-based director of the UNC Project and director of international operations for the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

Kamuzu Central Hospital is a large facility with 1,000 inpatient beds, yet it lacks even a single specialist in internal medicine, and none of the country’s 27 district medical officers has any postdoctoral training in any area, said Hoffman, who is also a research associate professor in the School of Medicine’s department of medicine.

With the help of UNC and funding from the Gilead Foundation, two promising young physicians from the Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi’s largest city, will undergo three years of postdoctoral training in internal medicine at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. This will better equip them to combat Malawi’s HIV epidemic, which affects 14 percent of the population.

Dr. Cecelia Kanyama, one of the UNC Project’s medical officers, has been selected to be the first of these trainees. Kanyama, the ninth child of two school teachers, earned scholarships to study in Canada and Australia and then returned to Malawi to attend medical school. After her postdoctoral training in South Africa, she will return to Malawi again. “We practice medicine in the most difficult settings,” Kanyama said. “Most of my classmates left for developed countries, but I remain to serve the nation.”

UNC conducts global health activities in more than 50 countries, and recently established the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to unite and strengthen these endeavors across the campus and around the globe. Carolina’s work in Malawi is just one example of UNC’s mission to increase its global reach in research, teaching and service.

The Gilead Foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities around the world.

Institute contact: Lisa Chensvold (919) 843-5719, lisa_chensvold@med.unc.edu
News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962-8596, patric_lane@unc.edu