South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7.1 million infected individuals. National and global commitment to a “surge” — rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS and TB treatment and prevention throughout the country — will significantly increase the demand for researchers with expertise in areas such as implementation science who can define best practices and influence effective policy.
Yale has partnered with the Aurum Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand to accelerate the pipeline of HIV/AIDS and TB researchers by developing mentorship and leadership capacity among mid-career scientists. Through the Clayton-Dedonder Fellowship for Research Leadership, which launched in June, Yale experts will build on multiple strengths in South Africa and at Yale, including the proven models for management and leadership education created by the Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative (GHLI).
“We are excited to work with these accomplished partners to address the critical need to prepare scientists to serve as effective research mentors within a nurtured leadership network in South Africa,” said Erika Linnander, director of GHLI and lecturer in health policy and management at Yale School of Public Health (YSPH). The lead faculty from the school also include Leslie Curry, professor of health policy and management, and Mayur Desai, associate professor of epidemiology.
Salome Charalambous, deputy chief scientific officer at The Aurum Institute, said she shares Linnander’s excitement for the program: “We are proud to have developed a core group of doctoral-level researchers at Aurum, and that it why this program is especially important, because to meet the demands of South Africa’s HIV and TB epidemics, we must ensure they have the tools and skills needed to mentor and engage rising scientists for expanded impact.”
The program consists of three in-person sessions over the course of nine months, with emphasis on the development of skills for successful mentorship and coaching, effective leadership in health systems research (such as strategic thinking, advocacy, engagement with health systems, and the political landscape), and the development of a professional network for sustained research leadership. The fellowship is funded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.
This work is a supplement to Yale’s Global Health Equity Scholars Fellowship program and establishes Yale connections with the Aurum Institute, an African, public-benefit organization that aims to improve the health of people and communities through innovation in TB and HIV integration in global health areas. The University of Witwatersrand (Wits), which has more than 50 active projects on the African continent, is the founder of the African Research Universities Alliance, a network of 15 of the region’s leading universities.
During his address at the launch in Muldersdrift, South Africa, Dr. Sten Vermund, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, said “Given the apartheid legacy, black South Africans did not have the kinds of research and career development opportunities that were available to others. Our research mentor training program addresses this disparity head on.”
Tobias Chirwa, head of the Wits School of Public Health, added, “Mentorship and career development for our faculty is a strategic priority. We look forward to using this program as an opportunity to more formally align, strengthen, and sustain our mentorship efforts.”