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East Africa symposium sparks new ideas for collaboration and engagement

Discussions build on university's decade of education and research success in region
April 7, 2016
Volunteer community health workers promote health within their villages in Tanzania.

Volunteer community health workers promote health within their villages in Tanzania.

To advance the University of Calgary’s health efforts in East Africa, the Regional Advisory Council for East Africa and the University of Calgary International Office held a symposium recently to examine the value of multi-disciplinary approaches and promote knowledge exchange and fresh thinking.   

“Our work in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania has led to remarkable relationships with academic institutions in the region,” says Jennifer Hatfield, associate dean of strategic partnerships and community engagement in the Cumming School of Medicine.

“We had three main goals for the symposium: share information and raise awareness about our ongoing projects, learn about other faculty and staff members working in the region, and engage students in a compelling way.”

“East Africa is a region of emphasis for the University of Calgary and our international development work there has been a real success,” adds Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international).

Keynote speaker explores remote sensing and mosquito control

The keynote speaker, Chris Thomas, pro vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University (U.K.) delivered an engaging presentation on remote sensing to target malaria mosquito control in Africa and the interdisciplinary science used to tackle this problem.

Thomas is a world-renowned field ecologist specialized in disease hazard mapping using fieldwork, models, remote sensing and GIS on a variety of plant and animal systems. His latest research has focused on human malaria in Tanzania. He has published over 60 papers and won research awards totalling over $30-million.

The 80+ audience made up of students, faculty and staff then divided into groups to discuss and present recommendations on how the University of Calgary can better engage in capacity development in low and middle-income countries, foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, and attract students, local community and donors along the way.

International partnerships and multi-disciplinary approaches are more important than ever as researchers face larger and more complex problems. Attendees were eager to share ideas with one another and made the most out of the opportunity to engage.       

Symposium builds on over a decade of success in East Africa

The university's presence in East Africa has been ongoing for over a decade through education, research and capacity-building. A central aspect of the work in the region has been maternal child health project partnerships with universities in Uganda and Tanzania.

“Our experiences demonstrate that the lives of mothers and children can be saved through strategic and low-cost interventions such as training health workers at rural health facilities, and establishing networks of volunteer community health workers who promote health within their own villages,” says Jenn Brenner, project leader and pediatrician at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Community health initiatives supported by development partners

The university's efforts to support improved health in communities in East Africa have been recognized and supported financially by Global Affairs Canada and other development partners.

The symposium was organized by the Regional Advisory Council for East Africa led by Benedikt Hallgrimsson and Jennifer Hatfield (Cumming School of Medicine) and the University of Calgary International Office led by Savera Hayat-Dade, director, programs and international development.

The regional advisory council is interested in hearing from university members working in the region in order to strengthen networks and collaborations. Contact them today.