The Johns Hopkins–Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program (FABTP) celebrated 15 years with a reunion of fellows, advisory board members, institutional partners faculty, and staff at the Berman Institute December 2-3, 2014, followed by a public symposium, “Critical Ethics Issues for Health Research in Africa,” on December 4.

 

Thirty-three fellows and partners from 14 countries – representing every cohort of fellows to go through the program – gathered to review the evolution of bioethics in Africa, present trainees’ original empirical and scholarly work, identify new pathways for advancing bioethics capacity in Africa, and explore opportunities for networking and collaboration.  Some had never visited the Berman Institute’s relatively new home in Deering Hall, while others were happy to return and greet familiar faces.

 

 

Nancy Kass, co-director of the program with Adnan Hyder, welcomed everyone by saying that she really felt that she was hosting a family reunion, with some cousins who haven’t met each other yet. “I have been looking forward to this for months,” she told the group. She added that she and Hyder were especially pleased to be able to include Barbara Sina, program officer at the NIH Fogarty International Center, in the reunion, who has been invaluable to the program’s success.

 

Kass presented data on the substantial accomplishments of the group, which have significantly bolstered research ethics capacity across Africa. Over the past 14 years, FABTP trainees have authored 210 bioethics-related publications, played key roles in 151 research studies, and participated in 362 bioethics workshops or conferences.  Alumni also remain committed to passing on the knowledge gained through the program, teaching 111 bioethics-related courses in Africa since 2000.

 

“Our alumni are deeply committed to expanding bioethics teaching, research and service in Africa. As leaders in their home countries and institutions, many have developed new and innovative training programs, research portfolios, institutional and national frameworks, ethics review committees, and more,” says Hyder.

 

The reunion was followed by a public symposium, “Critical Ethics Issues for Health Research in Africa,” co-hosted with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The event was attended by over 100 participants from more than 20 countries.  Fellows, faculty, and journalists made presentations on issues of policy, human rights, capacity development, and media engagement, all of which were streamed live online and are now available to view on YouTube.

 

“The symposium demonstrated how different health research stakeholders – including ethics committee members, policymakers, researchers, media professionals, funders, and the public – can influence how ethics challenges are identified, presented and addressed in Africa,” says Joseph Ali, faculty coordinator of the fellowship program.

 

Many fellows stayed in Baltimore through the weekend to attend the 40th anniversary conference of Public Responsibility in Medicine & Research (PRIM&R). Several fellows and Berman Institute faculty presented at the conference.

 

Moving forward, FABTP is working with three universities that comprise an “African Bioethics Consortium”:  the University of Zambia School of Medicine, the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, and the University of Botswana Office of Research & Development. The goal of the consortium is to continue developing institutional capacity by establishing dedicated programs or centers of bioethics in these universities to ensure sustainability of training and research on ethics for Africa.

 

“Our model of networking and institutional focus, borrowed in part from public health and research, is relatively new in the field of research ethics in Africa and brings both North-South and South-South collaborations into the same platform for a common goal” Hyder says.

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Leah Ramsay

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