Meet the winners of Merck Hypertension Award 2016 from African and Asian universities


Merck has announced the winners of the “Merck Hypertension Award” for Africa and Asia. The award as part of the Merck Capacity Advancement Program was launched in April 2016 in partnership with African and Asian universities with the aim of building a platform of hypertension experts across the globe.
Merck invited medical students to apply for the “Merck Hypertension Award” 2016 with the theme of “What the Healthy Heart needs.” Students across African and Asian medical universities were asked to submit a concept paper on how to improve hypertension awareness, early detection and prevention in their countries. In addition, to also include ways to encourage their society, scientific community, local authorities, media and relevant stakeholders to ‘think and act’ on how to improve the awareness about hypertension control and prevention in their country. 
The scientific committee received over 500 concept submission applications from universities in Africa and Asia and 10 winners were selected for the award. The winners from each university have been granted a one year postgraduate preventive cardiovascular medicine training in University of South Wales, United Kingdom.

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Lovelyn Chiamaka
Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria

 “After my dad developed hypertension and diabetes without knowing, it almost cost him his life. I have watched a lot of people in my country die because of this same chronic diseases. Recently a very popular Nigerian comedian died on stage while performing. The autopsy discovered that the death was due to high blood pressure. 
During my six months student industrial work experience at National Hospital Abuja and a community pharmacy, I found out that 90% of the prescriptions that were received at the pharmacy had anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic drugs on it. In the just concluded health mission work organised by Anambrians in USA where I worked as a pharmacist technician, I noticed that they came with a lot of anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic drugs and they were the first to get finished even before the end of the mission work. This was because almost everyone that came for their drugs during the mission work needed them. 
From all these experiences and from the world health data about hypertension in blacks, all I am seeing is a problem that needs an urgent solution. I have always wanted to bring solutions to this problem we are facing in Nigeria and Africa at large. I have been seeking funding to take specialty training in cardiovascular complications to equip myself. When I saw the advert for the concept paper I was excited and I grabbed the opportunity. "Merck Hypertension Award” to me is a dream come true because it is going to equip me to meet the challenges facing Nigeria and Africa as a whole.  
The capacity programs Merck is organising for health professionals especially for the young ones will go a long way to change the way Nigerians and Africa at large feels and acts on hypertension. We the beneficiaries of this opportunity will create awareness about hypertension and diabetes to everyone, including both the non-therapeutic and therapeutic approaches. The non-therapeutic approach will contribute to reducing costs for the government and NGOs who are already spending much on management of diabetes and hypertension in Africa. This program will also keep me sensitised daily on how to take care of my own heart daily knowing fully well that I am genetically predisposed.”

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Anvita Jain
Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, India

“A small candle illuminates a dark room, similarly, I believe that a doctor in the making can contribute and make a difference on access to diabetes and hypertension care in Africa or Asia at large.”

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Florence Akumiah
Intern, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana

“I am a young doctor in a country and region where the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension has become a major health concern presenting in both children and adults. The impact is far-reaching affecting both rural and urban areas. With a generational history of battling this twin health predicament, I have had first-hand experience with the emotional, financial and physical toll; and it cannot be overemphasised. 
Much precedence needs to be given to addressing cardiovascular health risks and diseases. This award grants me the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience which I intend to utilise in creating awareness, and developing prevention and management strategies to help alleviate the disease burden in my country and the whole of Africa. With the help of the government, the health sector and colleagues in the medical profession, I am of the conviction that much can be done to curb the direness of the situation despite prevailing challenges. I am indeed honoured by the opportunity granted.”

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Joel Allotey
Medical Student, Accra, Ghana

 “I am very delighted to be given the opportunity to undertake a postgraduate diploma in preventative cardiovascular medicine at the University of South Wales, under the sponsorship of Merck. I believe that the diploma will expose me to new scientific developments in interventions for the prevention of cardiovascular disease among individual patients as well at-risk population groups.
At the end of my programme, I believe that I will have gained expertise in current trends with regard to prevention of cardiovascular conditions, as well as identify research opportunities in cardiovascular medicine, peculiar to my local healthcare setting. 
This opportunity will also prepare me for leadership positions in healthcare in the future and help me to contribute significantly to the Ghanaian health system, by controlling the increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases with their associated health and social implications.”

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Ezekiel Osolika
University of Nairobi, Kenya

 “The best, most affordable and viable modality of treatment I have learnt in my medical training is prevention. Primary prevention of cardiovascular ailments and diabetes is of great importance to the local community and the society. This is because lifestyle modification and living a healthy life is possible for everyone regardless of their socio-economic or education status. A long journey begins with a small step. Winning the Merck Hypertension Award is a major step in my journey to becoming a better clinician and a source of information to the people. The awareness of hypertension and diabetes enhanced by Merck will have a positive influence on the prevalence of the non-communicable diseases in Kenya and the whole of Africa.”

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Sheila Wanjiru Muchiri
University of Nairobi, Kenya

 “The continuing epidemic of cardiovascular disease in Kenya and across Africa calls for intensified and renewed efforts towards its prevention.  I am excited about this opportunity to gain the expertise to lead these efforts.”

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Moniza Hasnat
Dubai Medical University, UAE

“The Merck Hypertension Award was an excellent initiative that not only brought out the innovative side of us as students, but also promoted the value of preventive medicine. It made us realise that by simple preventive measures and advancements, we could kill the “silent killer” before it kills across the globe! Cardiovascular medicine has always been my field of interest. I aim to do great work in this field and I am really happy to have won this award as it is another milestone towards my career goal. I wrote a concept paper about building Hypertension Health Clubs in accessible areas in UAE that would empower patients, give them more control over their illness and equip them with knowledge in an enjoyable and socialising way. So far it was a paper but winning this award has spurred me to accomplish this goal and make tomorrow a better day!”

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B. Joseph Baluku
Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda

“The award presents an invaluable opportunity for me to be relevant in an utterly resource limited country with regards to hypertension care and prevention.”

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Futagbi Israel
Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana

“This honourable award is an encouragement for me to work more tirelessly towards becoming an expert in my chosen career. This award will equip me to help spread the knowledge about the risk factors, causes, signs and symptoms, as well as prevention and management of diabetes and hypertension in Ghana. Knowledge is power, therefore the world at large will be in the right position to minimise or completely eradicate the aforementioned conditions by way of public education.”

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Samwel Jacob Rweyemamu
Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania

“After completion of this course, my education status will change. I will have a post graduate diploma in preventive cardiovascular medicine. I will be like a super specialist in the field. It will put my name on the map of the world as a cardiovascular medicine preventive specialist. It is a bridge for international interaction - it creates a link between myself, Merck hypertension award officials and University of South Wales.
NCDs are a burden in our country, but they are preventable through various strategies like lifestyle modification. Qualified staff on the preventive wing is a problem; so this award which is a training strategy is of paramount importance as it is addressing a human resource shortage problem. The program being fully funded is addressing the financial constrain which is an obstacle in developing qualified staff in developing regions like Africa and Asia. The award reminds African countries and Asia to invest on preventive medicine rather than on only clinical medicine. Hypertension prevention is the gold standard of care rather than pharmacological care because the disease is overt with obvious complications like target end organ damage. Qualified staff for community entry are needed in our country - I will be the one. The community will be educated in preventive care of hypertension and diabetes.”
About the Merck Capacity Advancement Program (CAP)
Merck CAP is a 5-year program aiming to expand the professional capacity in developing countries in the areas of research and development, advocacy building, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmacovigilance, medical education, and community awareness. It was established in 2012.
As part of the CAP initiatives, more than 17,000 medical students from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda in addition to Asian universities such as Maharashtra University, India and University of Indonesia, have benefited from this program with the aim to reach 25,000 by 2018. 


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