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Voices of MEPI Junior Faculty fellows: Dr Tariro Mawoza-Chikuni

March / April 2021 | Volume 20 Number 2

Dr. Tariro Mawoza-Chikuni works with substances in a lab. 

 

Dr. Tariro Mawoza-Chikuni

Ethnopharmacologist and pharmacology chair
University of Zimbabwe

As told to Susan Scutti

In Zimbabwe, many women take folk medicines during pregnancy and delivery to help open the birth canal. This inspired my Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Junior Faculty Research Training project, where I looked at prevalence of traditional medicine use.

I found that just under 70% of women used folk medicine during pregnancy, mainly in hopes of facilitating labor and making delivery easier, while more than 17% of women used them for postpartum care. My previous work was mainly lab-based so asking people about a sensitive issue taught me a lot about how to conduct questionnaire-based research and then translate the results. Despite the widespread use of traditional medicines, there is insufficient scientific data to justify their use in pregnancy and concerns some might be harmful to the mother and fetus. To shed light on this, I conducted in vitro animal experiments with some of the most commonly used folk remedies.

Through this fellowship, I also learned more about scientific writing, starting with a skeleton and going step-by-step, perfecting the methodology, refining the conclusion and finally submitting it for publication. The program provided mentors, local and international, who taught me how best to mentor my own students. I also met researchers in other fields and now we are coordinating our work and writing grants together.

Next, I am planning to examine the active substances of traditional medicines to better understand their effects.

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