Alumni Spotlight: Meet Joy Ebonwu, Epidemiologist (National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa), 2012 graduate of the South Africa FETP
by Tina Rezvani, Communications Specialist, TEPHINET
Hi Joy, thank you for agreeing to participate in TEPHIConnect’s Alumni Spotlight, a series about the achievements of FETP alumni around the world. First, please tell us: from your perspective, what was the most important thing you learned from your FETP experience?
It’s my pleasure to be invited to participate in this series. Thank you!
The FETP provided me with the needed epidemiology skills for the study and control of diseases and health events. The field response aspect was a great opportunity to interact with various stakeholders and work as a team. The many competences to complete within two years of the programme taught me hard work and discipline. I cannot forget the thrilling experience of mingling with others and presenting my work in both local and international conferences.
Describe your career path after graduation. How did you end up where you are now, as an Epidemiologist with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases?
After graduation, I worked as project epidemiologist for the national sexually transmitted infections (STI) etiological surveillance at the Centre for HIV and STIs, National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). In this role, I worked closely with the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) to support the strategic objectives of the National STI Surveillance Programme. Thereafter, I worked as an epidemiologist at the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD), where I co-ordinated a study on factors affecting presentation for first antenatal care visit in two study sites. In 2015, I moved back to the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response of the NICD as the Gauteng Provincial Epidemiologist. In this position, I utilized laboratory data generated at NICD/NHLS to provide epidemiological support to public health activities in the province. These activities include public health surveillance, outbreak response, health system strengthening (linkage of laboratory diagnosis with healthcare delivery), training/capacity building and epidemiological research. In September 2017, I was appointed the Provincial Epidemiologist Team manager.
Can you tell us more about your specific role and what you’re working on?
The Provincial Epidemiology Team (PET) of the NICD provides for the epidemiological needs of the nine Provincial Departments of Health in South Africa. This service focuses on utilising epidemiological methods and expertise to support provinces in meeting their responsibilities of preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases in line with the International Health Regulations and contributes to the strengthening of public health capacity in South Africa.
My main role as the PET manager is to support and supervise operational activities of the provincial epidemiologists that are posted to the nine provinces of South Africa, in alignment with the broader NICD functions. This includes coordinating mechanisms to obtain public health data from the various NICD centres in a structured and systematic manner and make it available to provincial epidemiologists for use within their respective provinces. In close collaboration with provincial epidemiologists, the South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Programme (SA-FETP) and other relevant training programmes define the epidemiology training needs of provincial and district health departments and develop a training strategy to address these needs.
Are you still connected with the South Africa FETP (for example, through teaching or mentoring trainees)?
Yes, I’m still connected with the South Africa FETP. Apart from teaching and mentoring FETP residents, I partner with the SA-FETP to conduct district-level training on basic outbreak investigation and management for relevant Department of Health personnel, to increase capacity for outbreak response in the province.
What is your proudest achievement?
I’m thankful to God for my achievements so far but I believe the best is ahead of me and I strive every day to reach it.
As a TEPHIConnect user, how do you hope this platform can help you with your professional goals?
I hope to use this platform to be in regular contact with colleagues around the globe, share experiences and learn from best practices.
What advice would you give to an FETP graduate embarking on his or her career?
Keep focus on what you want to do and where you want to be and prove yourself at every given opportunity. Diligence and excellence do pay off!
TEPHIConnect members: To learn more about Joy, visit her profile.
If you’re interested in participating in our Alumni Spotlight series or have someone to recommend, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.