Funding and training projects in Kenya

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Published: 22 Nov 2017
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Dr Margaret Barton-Burke - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA

Dr Barton-Burke speaks with ecancer at AORTIC 2017 about research projects, including developing the African doctoral dissertation fellowship and grant applications.

She highlights a research project on breast cancer patients define motivations and barriers to screening, and the importance of international collaborations in developing this support material.

I’ve actually been working in Kenya since 2008 where I have worked with African doctoral students from all countries in a programme called An African Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, abbreviated ADDRF, where we teach a methodology workshop to researchers who are almost finished their doctorate so they’re funded. Since I’ve been working in Nairobi, Kenya, I actually connected with the team at Aga Khan who then requested that I help them develop a grant. That’s how the grant came about.

What other projects are you involved in?

For myself, my area of expertise is breast cancer, it’s also black women breast cancer survivors in the US and because of having done the work in Kenya I’ve since been sensitised to the African context. The grant call was just a call to grow some capacity within Africa and it’s an NIH funded study, NCI funded study. The exciting thing for me was to be able to bring breast cancer, because this is the topic that the folks at Aga Khan, the researchers at Aga Khan, wanted to study. They wanted to approach women and learn more about women’s health literacy and understanding about breast cancer but also cervical cancer. Because I’ve been an oncology nurse for a very long time I felt I could bring expertise both from a research standpoint but also from an oncology nursing perspective. The exciting thing was when they got the grant. It’s not so much putting together a grant, submitting it, but then getting it funded. It was a pretty rigorous selection process, it’s also work that hasn’t been done. We all in the US understand why people go for screening for breast cancer or we know what they know about breast cancer and we also know how to approach that. In Africa, but particularly in Kenya and Nairobi, we had no understanding of whether women understand breast cancer, understand cervical cancer, what they need to know for screening but also what they might need to know for treatment. This is what we’re using the study to understand and to learn more about.

Do you have any advice for someone seeking a grant?

I would say get a strong mentor and also be able to work with a team. I was fortunate enough to have a colleague who worked at Aga Khan University, we had met at the Aga Khan Hospital several years ago when I was starting to do my work in Kenya, it was 2010 that we met. We always stayed in touch and because we always stayed in touch she actually said, ‘I know somebody who can do research.’ They’re in the US, I’m in an institution that’s a research intensive institution, so it’s building the team that all can work together. So on one of my trips to Kenya for the African Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship we met and brainstormed about a grant and that’s how it all happened. Again, the exciting thing is that they got the grant and I would say to somebody else that they really should find a team that can work together and learn together from both sides of the pond.