Researchers at UNC Project-Malawi published 124 articles in scientific journals in 2018. This is a record for the international sites in the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID). Twenty-six of these manuscripts featured Malawian first authors. Maga Chagomerana, PhD, is the director of the analysis and manuscript unit at UNC Project-Malawi.“Our unit celebrates every publication manuscript coming from UNC Project-Malawi, especially those featuring a Malawian first author,” Chagomerana says. “We always strive to build local, analytic and scientific writing capacity, and the growing number Malawian first author publication manuscripts is a motivation.”
More than 25 years ago, faculty from UNC-Chapel Hill were invited by the Malawian government to help the country develop sexually-transmitted infections (STI) treatment protocols. In partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health, the University established UNC Project−Malawi in 1999 as a research, care and training program in the capital city of Lilongwe. This is the flagship site of the UNC IGHID.
“UNC’s goal in Malawi has always been to fully engage Malawian health professionals in an academic model that focuses not only on research to address the pressing health problems of the time, but on career development and academic empowerment,” Hoffman says. “This is true for both UNC and Malawian students and faculty based both in the US and in Malawi. The publication list this year is a testament from all involved, that we are succeeding.”
Like much of sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi faces significant health care-related challenges. More than 19 million people live in Malawi. The average life expectancy is 63 years, while the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years. Malawi has a high burden of HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases straining the country’s limited healthcare infrastructure.
Yet, research conducted at UNC Project-Malawi has led to improvements in clinical care locally and globally. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) changed its treatment guidelines for HIV and cryptococcal meningitis based on study results from the Malawi site.
UNC Project-Malawi has also worked hard to have UNC-trained physicians relocate to Malawi and to provide training for Malawians who care for patients, conduct research and teach the next generation of Malawian clinician-researchers. Mina Hosseinipour, MD, MPH, is the scientific director UNC Project-Malawi. She relocated to Malawi from the United States in August 2001.
“My first mentees are now leading their own research teams and mentoring students with the same zeal and enthusiasm as me,” Hosseinipour says. “I’m especially thrilled to see the growth of our Malawian faculty and junior investigators in the scientific process and their academic outputs.”