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Voices of MEPI Junior Faculty fellows: Dr Tsitsi Monera-Penduka

March / April 2021 | Volume 20 Number 2

Dr. Tsitsi Monera-Penduka works with samples in a lab.
Photo by Sarudzai Muyambo

Dr. Tsitsi Monera-Penduka

Pharmacist and senior lecturer
University of Zimbabwe

As told to Susan Scutti

Surveys have shown that herbal medicine use among people living with HIV (PLWH) ranges from 54% to 96%. When I checked the patient assessment tools used in our HIV clinic, I found there is only one question about herbal medicine. For my Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Junior Faculty Research Training project, I developed a new tool to help clinicians and pharmacists talk about herbal medicine use with PLWH.

My fellowship offered qualitative research classes delivered by experts so I learned how to frame research questions, what methods to use and how to apply statistics. The mentoring sessions included weekly meetings where we informally talked with experienced researchers at the university. I liked how they delivered feedback; it was always in a kind and gentle way but with authority. The meetings were inter-professional, so I learned from colleagues in other departments and at the same time I had the opportunity to express myself as an expert in my own domain. That was invaluable to me and helped me build confidence.

My association with the MEPI program gave me clout so I was invited to work with the health ministry on HIV management and to help write COVID-19 guidelines. Here in Zimbabwe, we recently started regulating formulated herbal supplements and I am on the national regulatory committee for reviewing these products. We should not be quick to dismiss traditional medicine since so many modern therapeutics come from herbs.

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