Residence: Mtepeni Kilifi
This was my first rotation after meeting the minimal requirements to join the KEMRI- WELLCOME TRUST SLAS programme through an aptitude test and an oral interview. I was torn in between fitting in into the new environment and focusing on the subject matter of the day. However, that did not hinder me from getting the intended message. There are around five sub-departments within the EDD department. The EDD department mainly deals in the KEMRI surveillance system which involves counting of people and closely monitoring their health. This role is accomplished by various sub departments within EDD. There are those who collect data from the field and those that work on the collected that from the offices like mapping them. There were times which we accompanied the field workers while at other times we remained indoors learning the theoretical aspect of the department. It was eye opening and fun. It is in this department that we learnt of the interrelation between KEMRI and the surrounding community and the procedure of a research ranging from consent signing to sample collection from the participants. The feeling of be a little researcher is amazing. I loved the whole thing.
Here, the main event was attending Community Health volunteers and KEMRI Community Representatives meetings. It was fun and educative. The main role of this department is to establish a good relationship between KEMRI and her community. Meetings were the common mode of communication between the community and KEMRI. In those meetings which are held thrice a year, KEMRI would share with the CHVs and KCRs on how to improve their service delivery to the society. The KCRs and CHVS are too expected to forward their complaints, wishes and suggestions of the community they represent to KEMRI for answers and clarifications. It is in those meeting that I learnt that people still questioned the works of KEMRI and even refuse to take part in their volunteering researches. In some communities, the snake on the KEMRI logo is also questioned and associated with devil worship. Over and above, many praised the work done by KEMRI especially their researches meant to help them at large. Despite the scorching sun and long travels of rough roads, I loved the works and activities of CLG department. I also enhanced my skills on meetings writing since that task was left to us. I also sharpened on my art of listening.
Soon, the long-awaited rotation came. I really wanted to quench my thirst in laboratory science. It is in fact the back borne of KEMRI whose main purpose is research. KEMRI laboratory is divided into three departments; immunology, microbiology and CTL. The experiences we never the same in each of the three sections and I would therefore love to share my experiences in bits.
This was my favorite section of the labs. They mainly deal in bacterial infections. However, there is a viral desk in the department that deals in HIV research. In this department, I learned about the microbiology culture; a method of multiplying microbial organisms by letting them reproduce in predetermined culture medium under controlled laboratory conditions with the purpose of determining the abundance organisms in a sample collected from a patient. It was educative. Even though a lot of science and terminologies were involved, I was well taken care of and managed to get the intended message. I took part in preparations of media plates too. Horse or sheep blood is used instead of that from a human being. Thereafter, they would subject the bacteria on the plate to different drugs and see which works best on it. Later , the right drug is administered to the patient. This lab is lifesaving. They handle complicated bacterial infections which are hard to determine by rapid tests. I loved their work. It is more of practicals than wits. Media preparations and measuring the diameter a drug has upon a certain bacteria is the best feeling.
This is the home of biological science. They deal in genetic compositions and disorders. They handle viral related cases and also do parasitic culture within the department. The main cultured parasite is the mosquito due to the ongoing malaria study. It is in this department that I learned of the two types of viruses; RNA and DNA, the uses of CD4 cells in the body and how a RT-PCR machine works. Also, DNA tests are done here. The experience was amazing in there ranging from the complicated science surrounding the gene to the simplest task like retrieving a sample from a freezer.
This lab is integrated with the sickle cell clinic. The main purpose of this section of the labs is to attend to samples from the sicklers. They check their hemoglobin level and malaria cases which they are not prone to. They used microscopy instead of the rapid malaria tests to get accurate results. It is in this depart that I learned of the different types of plasmodium; falciparum and vivax. I even observed some under the microscope. What an experience! This is all what I wanted; science. I wanted to have feel and touch of medical stuffs and knowledge since I have always aspired be one. That is what I gained or even more. I enjoyed my stay at KEMRI. It was fun, educative and full of exposure. Thanks to KEMRI-WELLCOME TRUST. Thumbs up.