2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Eight encounters with Mental Health care Kenya

I will shortly follow this reblog up with a post on mental health in Kenya and Africa in general.


In January 2013, I had the opportunity to extent my stay in Kenya, after providing a MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders) mental health and basic counseling training for a group of Somali nurses in Nairobi. After these 2 weeks training I arranged a couple of visits and interviews with people working in, or using/surviving, mental health services in Kenya

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Where to publish our next paper? Letter to a group member


This post was originally published in JUNQ, the Journal of Unsolved Questions.  I thank the editor David Huesmann for his feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript and for the authorization to reproduce it here.

Hi X

Thank you for sending your draft. Really nice work! I will give you more detailed feedback in the next couple of days, but I want to answer now your question about where we should submit our paper.

In the last couple of years, partly because of my involvement in the stripy controversy (more below), I have thought a lot about publishing… and concluded (along with many other people) that the system is absurd, worse, toxic. Public funds are paid to commercial publishers to put publicly-funded research behind paywalls. The (unpaid) hard work of reviewers (which may or may not have led to improvements in the article) remain confidential and does not benefit…

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Are you an #oncologist in #Africa? Apply to the 2015 Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Long-term International Fellowship (LIFe) by Dec 15


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“The Long-term International Fellowship (LIFe) (Long-term International Fellowship | Conquer Cancer Foundation) provides early career oncologists in low to middle income countries the support and resources needed to advance their training by deepening their relationship with a mentor from the United States, Canada, or the European Union and his or her institution.

Through a one-year medical fellowship, the recipient will earn valuable training and experience with which they can affect change in cancer care in their home country. Recipients must return to their home institutions after completing their international fellowship and are expected to disseminate the knowledge they have gained.

Eligible applicants must complete an application, which includes a section to be filled out by the prospective mentor at a cancer center in the U.S., Canada, or the E.U.

Applications for the 2015 LIFe open on October 15 and will be due on December 5, 2014.  For additional information, please read the 2015 Request for Proposals.

Application Templates:

The 2015 LIFe is supported by: Roche”


Junk to the Jungle – because we care?

Always interesting to read articles on how the West perceives Africa.

Puzzled Boss Lady

Not that I was surprised of the reactions to my first blog posting – after all I provoked it.  Some public and especially private comments to my open criticism on dysfunctional infrastructure in Africa clearly missed the point.  Poor and ill-fitting technology is not an African problem, but a global one. Force feeding unfit systems to societies and communities without considering the social aspects and implications is simply ridiculous. Technology is not synonymous to development, not even in the New Africa.

Yet, I am ever more puzzled.  Nearly ten years after Wainaina’s satirist essay on ‘How to Write about Africa’   we – the community of African scholars, researchers, practitioners and activists in the Nordic countries – are still on the defense mode. We find it difficult to present criticism towards African continent and its development.  Or could we now be attracted to flirting with the Big Capital and believe that…

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Are you a #Kenyan student considering applying to graduate school in the US? A few tips


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Today a friend asked to see a copy of my statement of purpose for my graduate school application. While searching through my mail for a copy, I came across an email I had written in reply to the request below:
“Hi Rose
I have a friend in Ethiopia who is trying to get into graduate school in the USA – since you were so successful in getting into Vanderbilt could you tell him what you did and give him some guidance on the application process? I would really appreciate that. He is copied on this email.”
I am posting my reply to the request because I realize that while I had a glut of information before my applications, not every student will be in the same position. But please note, this is just an account of what worked for me for a biomedical research program, different programs might have slightly different processes and requirements:
Graduate School Application and Preparation Process:
1. Check program ratings and come up with a list of highly competitive, medium competitive and safety schools (aim to apply to at least 7 programs or more if you can). The US News and World Report website is an excellent resource for getting information on program rankings and program requirements: As an example, click on the search results below for graduate biology program rankings

Best Biological Science Programs | Top Science Schools | US News Best Graduate Schools.

You also need to note that the application deadlines for the really competitive programs are alot earlier than for the less competitive programs. Schools like Yale, Duke, Johns Hopkins all have deadlines in the first week of December. Other schools have deadlines stretching into January and even February so, pace yourself.

2. Compile the requirements of entry to each program vis-à-vis your grades all the way from your undergraduate. Actually, especially undergraduate! You need to be realistic about your chances! However, it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic and hence the applications to a few competitive programs.
3. Please keep in mind that each school and indeed each program has its own TOEFL and GRE score requirements- these scores are especially important if any of your GPAs were low so please allow yourself enough time to study for the GRE especially.
Also to note is that while some schools consider the overall score, others look at the separate scores, i.e. quantitative (math) and verbal (english) separately so there’s need to score highly in both. Try and get as high a score as possible in your GREs and TOEFL. They can determine whether you get a scholarship besides securing admission. 
Also, there is always a lot of debate over how long you can expect to prepare for the exam but really this is student specific. I would advice that you get the prep material, gauge how long you need then work really hard. If you’re determined the exam is not super hard.
4. Your personal statement is critical. Program admission committees have a lot of respect for articulate students, what’s more, the personal statement is your opportunity to ‘show case’ yourself. It also gives you a chance to explain any slips in your grades etc, so please take it very seriously, you can use it to step yourself apart from your ‘competition’.
Give yourself ample time to write a general version and have someone who knows you professionally edit it. It is actually not a bad to have one more person read it as well. Be sure to tailor your statement of purpose for every application. One ‘size’ doesn’t fit all plus that’s just lazy lol.
5. Make sure not to miss any deadlines! You also need to note that some schools like UCSD require that you submit a pre application before getting them the application itself so make sure you’re on time for that. 
6. You will need to have your former schools send certified copies of your academic transcripts and degree certificates- make sure this is done on time! I would certainly to use DHL or FEDEX just to be sure they get delivered and on time. Also NOTE: While some universities can mail out your transcripts for you, my experience in Kenya was that you had to personally handle the shipping yourself. So I went to the registrars office for certified transcripts and degree certificate, then I had the envelops “sealed.” This assures the recipient programs that you did not tamper with the contents. I then sent the packages by DHL. This way you are in charge of the process and not at the mercy of your former university. However, other institutions might be more reliable on this. 
7. Please note that some schools like UTMB will require to have a third party like WES (World Education Services in New York) evaluate your credentials, this is an extra fee plus, you need to send your certificates to WES way ahead of time….


8. Prepare adequately for your oral interviews. Keep in mind that a lot of US students do their interviews in person which can be an advantage. In my case, I had SKYPE interviews since I was in Nairobi at the time. But I imagine the preparation process is pretty much the same. I had 3 different interviews. One with a program coordinator and two with different professors one of whom was in the department I was proposing to join.

The interviews weren’t particularly academic, as a friend put it, “at that point, they just want to gauge whether you can tie your shoe laces.” Meaning they already have your academic credentials and they know a bit of your personal story from your personal statement so this step is just to establish if you’re a good fit as far as character goes. It however does not hurt to do some background research on the people interviewing you especially their research interests so you can better impress.

When making appointments for the interviews, they will consult you. Be sure to take in to account the time difference between your country and the US. Also, make sure that you have a reliable internet link for the interviews!!!! This is critical. You want to come across as effective! And of course, you must look presentable.

Cost: Overall, it is extermely expensive buying the prep materials, paying for the GRE and TOEFL exams and also sending your transcripts by DHL. Or getting evaluations from WES. On top of that, the application fees can be prohibiting and generally, the more prestigious a program is, the higher the application fee tends to be. So you also need some financial planning! Actually sometimes the number of programs one applies to is limited by finances more than any other reason.
A trick would also be to shop around for programs that do not charge application fees! A great example of this is Vanderbilt! See: Admission into the IGP | Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.
Additional Info:  Please not that Education USA which is a part of the public affairs section of the many US Embassies is a great resource as far as getting more information on graduate programs is concerned. They have their finger on the pulse of programs where you have a higher chance of getting in. They do charge a consultation fee though but I would consider it as money well spent. They really are an excellent support system also emotionally. They also offer practice sessions for GREs etc if you prefer tutored sessions.
For Kenyan students, here’s a link for the office: EducationUSA | Find an Advising Center.
Other thoughts: 
The process can seem tedious but don’t get dispirited if this is something you really want. Just remember that procrastination is a thief of time, the earlier you start, the sooner you can get in to that program you’ve been coveting! Er, as some interesting characters would advice, ‘do not forget to remember’ that in this process, google is your friend! There are so many resources online to help you prepare. For instance, I was able to compile a list of 20 most likely questions for my oral interviews and went over them with my ‘mentor.’
Last but not least, never ever forget the quote below by Wayne Gretzky. 
Credit: Pixteller.com

Credit: Pixteller.com

Don’t let fear paralyze you. Get to applying! Feel free to post questions below this article. Good luck!

“National boundaries are not respected by infectious diseases”: Chikwe Ihekweazu on the Ebola epidemic at TEDGlobal 2014

TED Blog

Chikwe Ihekweazu speaks at TEDGlobal 2014. Photo: Ryan Lash/Ryan Chikwe Ihekweazu speaks at TEDGlobal 2014. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Ten years ago, epidemiologist Chikwe Ihekweazu helped fight an outbreak in South Sudan. This TED Fellow now runs the health consultancy EpiAFRIC, writes about public health issues in his native Nigeria, and is soon to start a four-week rotation on the ground fighting the Ebola epidemic. So as the outbreak continues, he sat down for a Q&A with Chris Anderson in Session 11 to give insights into what is happening and how concerned we all should be.

The first question: Can we get the scientific overview of what Ebola is and how it makes people sick?

Ihekweazu gives the disconcerting answer that, unlike some other viruses, we don’t know what the natural host is for Ebola. We do, however, know that in humans it is passed through contact with bodily fluids. We know that the disease has an incubation period…

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In public health communication, a picture might be worth more than 1000 words


A picture is worth a thousand words, is an old phrase stemming from the notion that a single picture can convey in a single glance what might have been spread over many pages of text. Communicating public health can be ineffective at times due to use of technical terms. Use of medical terminology makes information inaccessible to those who need it the most. Sometimes also, communicators might provide more information than patients or even the general public can process.

The use of images on the other hand can greatly improve public health education. Pictures can improve the comprehension of a message especially amongst the less literate, aid the recall of a message and sometimes, the emotional response to an image can lead to positive behaviour change (adherence). Given the invaluable role that pictures can play in public health communication, I was excited to receive an email notification of a public health pictorial exhibition at Northwestern a while ago. Being a lover of artistic expression and of public health communication, I was eager to see what the exhibitors would come up with. The wait ended yesterday.

It was a great honor and pleasure to attend the public health photo exhibition organized by the Northwestern Public Health Review (nphr.org) a students initiative at Northwestern’s Program in Public Health. I am posting three pictures that I found particularly touching…. However, please visit this link;  Communicating Public Health through Pictures to learn more about the exhibition, NHPR and the Masters in Public Health program at Northwestern. You can also visit NHPR’s blog entry on the exhibition here: Communicating Public Health | NPHR Blog.

A cracked foot steps on a ground that might have buried landmines.

A cracked foot steps on a ground that might have buried landmines.

"Patients waiting for organ transplants reside in a plane of uncertainty and isolation....." #Poignant

“Patients waiting for organ transplants reside in a plane of uncertainty and isolation…..” #Poignant

This picture made me so sad: #MentalHealth- No caption necessary!

This picture made me so sad: #MentalHealth- No caption necessary!

#MedicalFellowships for #Kenyan and other #CommonwealthStudents, closes Dec 2014.


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“Want to be Doc Who? Medical scholarships funded by UKAid available for Kenyans. Closes Dec,” informs Lisa Phillips director DFID-Kenya. For more information, just click on this link:

Please share this as widely as possible. Lets get our kids to explore new opportunities wherever and whenever they arise.

Book Review: “Homicide, suicide and mental illness in Africa”


(Princeton University Press. 1960)

                                                                          By Osefame Ewaleifoh

It is remarkable that the most comprehensive review of mental health and suicide in Africa was written in the 1960′s. This fact underscores how little we know today about the reality of mental health need and suicide in Africa.“Homicide, suicide and mental illness in Africa” was compiled and edited by Paul Bohannan, a Rhodes Scholar and professor of Social Anthropology at Oxford in 1960 and provides a rich ethnographic assessment of mental health,  homicide  and suicide in west Africa at the end of European colonial rule of the region.

This timeless must read volume work was conceived after Dr. Bohannan and his colleagues stumbled into a cache of judicial and police documents belonging to the British Colonial Lords in East Africa. This discovery prompted Paul and his collaborators to compile and analyze similar data sets from other regions of the continent from…

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