As a young man green from medical training in Nigeria, I was posted to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos for my mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps program which is meant to promote selfless service to the community and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background. Sometimes during this year of service, I met Late Dr. Adesina Adeiga who developed an interest in me. He would be the first person to ask for my resume and that relationship led to my involvement in phase three, multi-center Clinical Trial of a candidate microbicide (the SAVVY project), an experience that would define the rest of my professional career.
During the course of the clinical trial, I was able to build capacity in clinical research from 2004 to 2007. I interacted with both local and international collaborators and monitors. One of which was regular monitoring visits from the Clinical Research Organisation for the project, Family Health International, North Carolina, USA and I also hosted the regulatory team from the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) on-site assessment visits. I gained competence on the ethical principles in biomedical research including Good Clinical Practice, I attended my first international conference, had an attempt at my first manuscript and I was able to complete my MPH degree at the University of Lagos, Nigeria during the SAVVY project.
After, this first experience in research and management of grants, I was privileged to work as a clinician in the Harvard PEPFAR program for treatment and care of persons living with HIV at NIMR which to date is one of the largest funding by the USA government for research and service in Africa. During this program, I gain competency in healthcare quality improvement programming, a form of implementation science research to identify and provide solutions to gaps in the HIV service delivery program through a systematic approach using the Plan Do Study and Act (PDSA) strategy.
However, some years down the line I became restless. I wanted more! I wanted to build on the experience of the RCT research. Then out of the blue, a friend who is not in the medical line sent me a mail about the African-London-Nagasaki scholarship which was meant to provide funding for African scientists to do master’s degree programs either in the United Kingdom or in Japan.
I applied for the scholarship but was not successful, though shortlisted in the first year. Through a piece of timely advice from another friend who said “if you don’t pay money to apply, then keep applying” I reapplied in the following year and was offered an opportunity to do a Certificate Course in Clinical Trials at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2014. A year into this program, I eventually got full funding to do MSc in Clinical Trials through Distance Learning. Interestingly, about the time I began the MSc program, I equally commenced a residency training in Community Medicine and Public Health towards the award of the fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and the West Africa College of Physicians which turned out to be very very demanding and I learned a valuable lesson that nothing good comes easy and in the words of Robert Schuller “ though times does not last, only tough people do”.
About the year 2018, my career took a new turn, through new partnerships leading to new frontiers and opportunities in research. Specifically, I met Dr. Juliet Iwelunmor, of St Louis University, and Prof Gbenga Ogedegbe of New York University among others. I was also privileged to work closely with Prof Babatunde Salako, the current Director-General, and CEO of NIMR, who at that time always told me that I needed to enroll in a PhD. program to become an independent researcher.
Through this new partnership I got involved in the I-TEST project (PATC3H; Grant Number: 1UG3HD096929–0; Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health) which is meant to promote HIV self-testing among youths in Nigeria through innovative approach, a project in which I had the privilege to lead the team that developed the mobile application for photo-verification of self-testing results and promote linkage to care of the youths after testing.
One experience that stood out for me during the process of initiation of this grant in Nigeria was my invitation to attend a meeting at the National Institute of Health (NIH) office in Bethesda, USA. It was a landmark experience and I remember that during the course of the meeting, I muttered to my self “if there is anything I would love to do for the rest of my career, this is it!”. This by all means meant that I needed to become an independent researcher. About a year later through collaboration on another grant from NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to integrate hypertension management into HIV care in Nigeria through a task strengthening strategy, (the TASSSH-Nigeria project), I had the opportunity to apply for a Ph.D. program at the School of Public Health And Social Justice at Saint Louis University which is a critical step towards my career development and indeed one of the best decision of my career till date.
I believe strongly that the grant writing course is core in the pursuit of my overall career goal. Therefore, I have decided that I would be a ‘sponge’ through the process! I hope to absorb/assimilate as much as I can, persevere with the hope to actually submit a grant at the end of the course, and hopefully, I would be able to tell a wonderful story later of my experience and perhaps qualify to inspire and contribute to the training of future researchers in grantsmanship.
In a nutshell, my experience so far can be best described by this quote from the holy Bible [Isaiah 28:10(NLT)] ….. “ONE LINE AT A TIME, ONE LINE AT A TIME, A LITTLE HERE, AND A LITLE THERE” …..till I get to the destination.