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Dr Uzochukwu Egere, the Centre for International Health's first Master of Public Health graduate

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dr Uzochukwu EgereI was born in rural Eastern Nigeria where my parents had been working as itinerant Anglican ministers. I therefore had my primary education in four different rural localities as the family moved around from year to year. The determination of my parents to give each one of their children a sound education made it possible to me to gain entrance into one of the pioneer Anglican junior seminaries where I completed my secondary education in flying colours and with one of the best results in the state. I proceeded to the University of Jos in Central Nigeria in 1988 where I obtained my primary medical degree in 1995. After the usual one year internship and a compulsory one year national service, I joined the paediatric residency training at the University College Hospital Ibadan, South Western Nigeria, in 1998. During the residency period, I had a stint in Paediatric Neurology at the Eberhard-Karls University Children’s Hospital, Tubingen, Germany for a period of one year. This made it possible for me to man the paediatric neurology ward at the UCH Ibadan for a one year period in the absence of a substantive consultant. I obtained the Fellowship of the West African College of Physicians (Paediatrics) in April 2006.

My medical school and residency training experiences brought to the fore in an emphatic manner, the intolerable burden of disease around me, but especially the unacceptable morbidity and mortality associated with this among our precious children. I grew more and more dissatisfied with the routine bedside care of sick children as I began to understand the multifaceted contributory factors to burden of disease in children in my environment. It was therefore with much zeal that I joined the Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia, when the opportunity called in August 2006, to help conduct a large community randomised trial of the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in rural Gambia. Pneumococcal diseases stand out among the major killers of children in Africa and I was delighted to be part of a team not only investigating how the new conjugate vaccines may affect this, but taking advantage of an outstanding research platform within Africa to understand the epidemiology and public health impacts of diseases. This helped satisfy partly, the curiosity I developed at the bedside of sick children and also brought the urge to learn further.

The Mac-Gibbon Scholarship for an MPH at the University of Otago made possible through the CIH has been for me a necessary springboard in my career as the thorough training exposed me to concepts, ideas and methods which are lifetime tools for tackling child health challenges in the developing world. From the teachings and demonstrations delivered by world-class experts at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine to the unique learning atmosphere provided by a superb student support personnel and facilities, my time at the University of Otago, Dunedin Campus, remains a memorable one for me and my family.

Currently, I work with a child Tuberculosis team at the MRC Unit, The Gambia, seeking to improve the diagnosis and management of childhood tuberculosis through contact tracing, tuberculosis skin testing, clinical examination of suspects and administration of isoniazid prophylaxis to vulnerable child contacts. This project brings together my 'bush' and 'bedside' skills which have been shaped over the last six years through my experience at The MRC and public health training at the University of Otago. I am married to my lovely wife Ifunanya who is primarily trained in Mass Communication and we are blessed with three wonderful children. I aim at continuing to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for making quality contributions to both local and global efforts to reduce the burden of disease on children, especially in places where this is needed the most.