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Voices of MEPI Junior Faculty fellows: Dr Bongani Nkambule
March / April 2021 | Volume 20 Number 2
Photo courtesy of UKZN
Dr. Bongani Nkambule
Hematologist and associate professor
University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
As told to Susan Scutti
The first time I saw a blood slide, I was fascinated - there are so many things hidden in the bloodstream and I wanted to examine how the immune system responds to an array of diseases. For my Ph.D., I worked on improving diagnostic tests and began looking at a subset of immune cells - platelets. A common complication among people living with HIV (PLWH) are blood clots and associated diseases, so my
Medical Education Partnership Initiative Junior Faculty Research Training (MEPI-Jr) project focused on PLWH and platelets, which can cause clots. One result is a published meta-analysis showing how baseline platelet hyperactivity continues even when PLWH go on treatment and so over time they become susceptible to cardiovascular disease.
The fellowship's personal development workshops were the most important part of the program. These helped me envision a career direction and make progress as both a researcher and a teacher. I have moved up from senior lecturer to associate professor. MEPI-Jr also taught me grant writing, project budgeting, supervision methods and communication skills. Students come from very different educational backgrounds and now I can look at an individual and understand their unique needs and assist them in their individual journey. This fellowship helped me acquire leadership skills, where I learned how to "read" and work with different personalities. Some mentors were not in my field and this helped me to find, articulate and explain the impact of my work beyond just publishing papers. My collaboration with an HIV clinician really opened my eyes; beyond my test tubes, I now see a patient, a family and a story and I can appreciate the societal impacts of my work.
Opportunity is what often makes a career, yet opportunity is exactly what a lot of excellent individuals lack. This fellowship allowed participants to gravitate toward other scientists who were equally eager to excel.
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