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Case study: cross-cultural bioethics training program helps fight African 'brain drain'

Baltimore When African professionals migrate to the United States or Europe, its often called brain drain. In the world of research ethics, at least one training program is causing the opposite effect. Now entering its eighth year of operation, the Johns Hopkins Fogarty African Research Ethics Training Program is the subject of a sweeping new case study published in the July 2007 issue of Academic Medicine. For the first time, the case study reveals some potent lessons in what it takes to deliver a successful, cross-cultural ethics training program.

We initially sought to increase the critical mass of African individuals professionally trained in ethics, said Nancy Kass, ScD, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the programs director. But it also turns out that our trainees are making institutional changes to policies, drafting new guidelines, and generally raising awareness of the need to support research ethics. And some trainees are not just doing these things in their home countries, but throughout the continent.

In a region devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the trainees provide encouraging evidence of success in the global effort to work collaboratively with African professionals to develop their own ethics-based research methods. After studying in Baltimore for six months under the supervision of a mentor with similar research interests, trainees return to Africa to begin a six-month practicum on the topic of their choice related to the ethics of research. One trainee returned to Zimbabwe, eager to share his newfound expertise at more than 30 workshops in surrounding regions. Another returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo and established two Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Another trainee helped design international guidelines for HVI vaccines.

During the practicum, trainees implement all they have learned in the classroom, said Adnan Hyder, MD, MPH, PhD, the
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Contact: Ed Bodensiek
ebodensiek@jhu.edu
410-516-8523
Johns Hopkins University
2-Jul-2007


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