Lab Matters Fall 2018 - Page 5

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE Marking APHL Milestones in Africa I am writing this from 39,000 feet, on a 19-hour flight back to DC from Southern Africa. I’ve spent the last 10 days visiting three APHL “outposts,“ first in Guinea, then Mozambique and finally Zimbabwe. The visit to Guinea was bittersweet since my purpose was to hand over the products of almost three years of work supported by CDC under the Global Health Security Initiative. In 2015, in the immediate aftermath of the West African Ebola Outbreak, we were asked to assist with the development of Guinea’s laboratory systems. From the beginning of the project, we knew it would be difficult—infrastructure had crumbled and the workforce was devastated due to the outbreak. What struck me then, and was confirmed by this visit, was the resilience of the Guinean people and their desire to have a lab system that could carry them through future public health crises. Due in large part to the leadership of Dr. Alpha Diallo and his small but mighty team, coupled with support from CDC, APHL was able to train and institute a quality management system at both the national public health laboratory and select major clinical laboratories operated through the Ministry of Health. APHL also played a major part in improving the facility and functioning of the largest hospital laboratory in the country, the Ignace Deen Hospital in Conakry. Fittingly, it was here that we gathered to officially transfer the on-going management and nurturing of the newly renovated and now-functioning laboratory to the Ministry of Health. While we are sad to end our full-time presence in Guinea, we hope there will be future opportunities to contribute to the development of the country’s laboratory system. My experiences in Mozambique and Zimbabwe differed from those in Guinea, primarily because our activities are supported by PEPFAR and we have been in these countries longer. PublicHealthLabs @APHL In Mozambique, APHL has had the privilege of working on PEPFAR for over 10 years. Through the leadership of APHL Mozambique team lead Solon Kidane, we have been involved in national laboratory policy, laboratory strategic planning and development of a training laboratory. We also have coordinated multiple twinning arrangements with US state public health laboratories and are now implementing a nationwide LIMS. I had the honor of touring the new National Institute of Health, which is the equivalent of Mozambique’s CDC. It is a world-class facility housing a team of exceptional scientists led by Director- General Dr. Ilesh Jani, a Mozambican physician and immunologist, and a great friend and collaborator to APHL. I was able to see how the laboratory protects the health of Mozambicans by detecting antibiotic resistance in bed nets used to guard against malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Although detection involves laborious, low-tech methods, this testing is critical to every resident of the country. Years ago, APHL worked in Zimbabwe to develop the laboratory system, but for political reasons, we hadn’t been active again until about five years ago. I’m now proud to say that APHL is the principal laboratory partner for PEPFAR programs in Zimbabwe. We operate the specimen transport system for PEPFAR-focused regions and have placed mentors in the major laboratories that are conducting viral load testing for HIV. We have a staff of 10 (and growing) that covers work in quality systems, specimen transport, lab information systems and, of course, finance and operations to ensure that we are successful. I visited one hospital laboratory that was in the midst of dealing with a cholera outbreak in Harare. Again, there was evidence of APHL’s involvement in the quality management system, biosafety practices, and improved instrumentation and facilities. In all countries, I met with CDC leadership to share APHL’s deep commitment to our vision of “a healthier world through quality laboratory systems.” I am pleased to report that, in these three countries, we are progressing steadily toward fulfillment of that vision. On a personal note, this whirlwind trip reminded me of the value of occasionally getting out of the office, laboratory or wherever you spend your days to meet with those who benefit from your work. It lifts your morale to see, touch, hear and feel how your work affects others. n In all countries, I met with CDC leadership to share APHL’s deep commitment to our vision of “a healthier world through quality laboratory systems.” Scott Becker, Executive Director, APHL Fall 2018 LAB MATTERS 3