Once upon an unusually sunny summer week in Bristol: a tale of a memorable academic visit – Simeon Pierre Choukem

Simeon picture for website

Simeon Pierre Choukem

I visited Bristol for the first time in December 2012, thanks to the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) Albert Renold Fellowship. I was an Albert Renold Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) for two months. I got Professor Julian Shield’s contact because I was developing a research programme to tackle childhood obesity in Cameroon. We discussed the topic for a few hours, he kindly introduced me to the Bristol Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), and we eventually were ready to begin collaboration.

In the meantime, I had created the Human Health and Diseases Connections (2HDC) Research Group hosted in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Buea, Cameroon. We successfully applied for an IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship.

The visit

The current visit materialised the beginning of collaboration between the BRU and the 2HDC, which we hope will:

  • Contribute to building the autonomy of the 2HDC Research group by helping with the training of young physicians, nurses, dieticians in research methods and clinical trials
  • Create training and research opportunities for UK students and researchers in Cameroon
  • Foster long term interchange between the two institutions; for instance, develop joint research programs including multicentre clinical trials.

From June 14 to 20, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the BRU Team. I attended seminars and meetings, I gave two talks and visited the city of Bristol.

  • Attendance of a seminar on “How sugar changed the world” organized by the IAS. This was an international event involving guests from the US and UK.
  • Talk 1: Guest lecture: “Paediatrics where and as you may not imagine”
  • Talk 2: BRU seminar series: “Diabetes in Africans: a research journey from phenotype heterogeneity to risk factors in early life”
  • Discussions with the BRU team:

– Database manager, Stu Toms: how to build a database?
– Statistical team: Sam D. Leary and Chris Penfold
– Professor Julian Shield, Kathleen Gillespie and Abby Wilcox: project on childhood diabetes (Immunology and Genetics)
– Professor Andy Ness (Director BRU) and Professor  Julian Shield: discussion on projects, support from the BRU and capacity building training in Cameroon in 2015, 2HDC website, and how to make the collaboration sustainable.

I also learnt a lot about Bristol as a historical British city, thanks to Professor Julian Shield’s commitment to friendly tours, tales and invitations.

As a major achievement, the 2HDC Research group’s data on childhood obesity is being analysed by the BRU statistics team and research papers will be published soon.

Perspectives

Maintain a long-term cross-fertilisation between Bristol and Cameroon

  • Capacity building
  • Technical assistance
  • Joint research project and clinical trials

Interchange of students between UK and Cameroon for research, clinical posting and training.

Partnership to build a research institute in Cameroon.

Hope

My assistant Daniel couldn’t come with me! With the diligence of Professor Julian Shield and Professor Andy Ness, the BRU also provided funds for my assistant Dr Daniel Nebongo to be part of the trip. Unfortunately he was refused the visa. I am hoping the next attempt will be successful.

If the University of Bristol had Masters and PhD programs!

One of the main difficulties we face in developing research in SSA is the lack of well trained staff. I wished the Bristol University held masters and PhD training programs. This would have been a great opportunity for capacity building in Cameroon.

Acknowledgements

My words of gratitude go to Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield, who co-founded this collaboration with me; to Professor Andy Ness and the entire BRU team who accommodated me and made the sojourn a memorable one.

Finally, I am highly indebted to the Institute for Advanced Studies who provided the funding to make all the above come true. To Dr Conny Lippert and Dr Edwina Thorn who endeavoured throughout to make the trip and the stay hitch-free.

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