Under the Microscope - IDM pioneers

Jessica Ebert
by Jessica Ebert
2011 IDM Class

There’s a vibe pulsing through the halls of Van Es this fall. It’s something fresh and different, and it’s moving many of us to walk a little more brightly; to engage in conversations that are a little more exciting; to imagine possibilities for our understanding and research that have a little more of a global reach.

Have you felt it? Have you been moved to cast your eyes about in an attempt to identify it; to name it; to hold it up as proof of something great? Let me make it easy for you. It’s not intangible or abstract or even fleeting like this persistently warm weather that is making us forget that we live in the upper Midwest. I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with eight new graduate students who are filling our classrooms, labs, and student offices with unique perspectives on—and passions for—infectious disease management.

These eight students are the pioneers of a first-of-its-kind master’s program and Graduate Certificate in infectious disease management and biosecurity (IDM) offered as a joint degree from two universities: NDSU (through the VMS Department) and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The program was unanimously approved by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education on September 15, 2011, but the inaugural class has already begun their studies.

For more information on the program itself, please visit the links provided at the end of this article, because this Under the Microscope will focus on the students themselves. Who are they? What inspired them to sign-on to the IDM? What do they hope to gain from the program?

Here are some of the things they had to say about their path to the IDM:

Rahel Gemmeda

I was educated in Ethiopia and studied public health. I heard about this program from staff members in our department. It is a novel, interesting field of study, which I hope will respond to the current need for experts in this field. Ultimately, I hope to gain a comprehensive understanding of infectious disease, which I can apply to a job in a public health organization.

Annet Kyomuhangi

I was born and raised in western Uganda, the “land of honey and milk.” I joined Makerere University in 2006 to study for a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Laboratory Technology (BLT). This program stimulated a strong interest in me to further understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie disease. I chose the IDM program because of the public health arm, which will help me understand the trends, culture, and social determinants of disease. This is what makes IDM my ideal program; it combines both public health and biological science aspects of disease control and surveillance.

So far, the IDM program has taught me the importance of involving communities in disease-control programs. In ten years, I want to initiate programs in western Uganda that will improve livelihoods and at the same time control and/or eliminate infectious diseases. One such program is a diagnostic and research laboratory, which is sorely needed in this part of Uganda.

Timothy Miller

I am originally from Luverne, MN. I went to NDSU for my undergraduate degree in microbiology with an emphasis in pre-medicine. I first heard about the IDM from Dr. Berry, and the thing that inspired me to pursue it was my underlying interest in animal-to-human or zoonotic infectious diseases with respect to their epidemiological importance on a national and global level. My ultimate career goal is to join the Navy Medical Corps after attending medical school. One day, I hope to work for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS).

The IDM program, thus far, has taught me to not only think, “How would I solve this problem in western civilization with limitless access to instruments?”, but also, “How would I solve this problem in a developing country with limited to no access to everyday instruments or medical supplies?”

Robert Mugabi

I come from Uganda where I did my under studies at Makerere University. I pursued a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine between 2005 and 2010. Last summer, I came to NDSU as an undergraduate research trainee, and that is when I was informed about the IDM program. My undergraduate research training inspired me to pursue graduate studies. My interest is in control and prevention of zoonotic diseases, and when the IDM program started, I felt my prayers had been answered.

Given that over 60% of human diseases are zoonotic, I know that finishing this program will give me enough knowledge to study and manage some of these deadly pathogens, some of which are trans-boundary.

Herbert Mukibi

I am a veterinarian from Uganda, and I was trained at Makerere University. I heard of this program during its inception when Dr. Margaret Khaitsa presented seminars about the IDM at Makerere.

My goal is to become a vet without borders; to become a professional with a holistic approach to disease management. To that end, the IDM program is helping me acquire knowledge in molecular techniques for diagnosing disease, and the international exposure is giving me a greater understanding of the systems approach to solving complex problems that otherwise have proved unsolvable by individual approaches. I value the IDM’s emphasis on practical approaches to managing infectious disease and the multidisciplinary involvement of students in the program as a way of learning based on the “one world, one health, one medicine,” concept.

Michael Muleme

I am from Uganda, and I hold a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from Makerere University. As a teaching assistant in the department of Veterinary Medicine at Makerere, I always looked out for opportunities for further studies. Therefore, I responded to an email from Dr. Margaret Khaitsa that asked for interested staff to apply for the IDM program.

I value the diversity of the program; being able to bring people of different disciplines together and giving them a chance to choose what they love to pursue in the field of infectious disease management is significant. I expect to learn more modern techniques of disease prevention and diagnostics, and I intend to use these skills to impact people’s lives.

For more info on the IDM program, please explore these links:

M.S. degree and graduate certificate program in International Infectious Disease Management and Biosecurity

Study abroad in Uganda course

Experience Uganda tour