Originally published at chahali.tumblr.com.
A PERSONAL JOURNEY: FROM PARASITE IMMUNOLOGY TO DISEASE CONTROL.
My career at NIMR is a true story of serendipity rather than design. I joined NIMR in 1987 after graduating from the University of Dar-es-Salaam with a B.Sc. in Zoology in 1986. After an extremely rigorous interview process I was assigned to work at the Amani Center and to specifically focus on a disease they called Bancroftian Filariasis. Now I had heard of this disease in my classes at UDSM and the great tutelage of Dr Parkin but I had no idea what I was going to do. In my mind I wanted to work on malaria which at the time I thought was more interesting area of research. So I must say I was quite depressed as at the time Malaria research had the most resources in terms of funding and equipment. I was told explicitly that I was to work to revive the Bancroftian filariasis work at Amani.
As one who always thrives on a challenge I set off for my long trip up the Eastern Usambara Mountains to this place they called Amani. The trip was up a series of undulating hills until we got to a point where I did not see houses or people. My fear was supressed by the breathtaking beauty of the drive, the beautiful forest, and the air getting clearer as we drove up the hill. On arrival at Amani my fears attacked me again, could I do it how was I expected to live here almost in the middle of nowhere. I consoled myself by reminding myself that there were several scientists here and that if they could live here so could I.
My dad had a favourite saying that “its up to you to manage your circumstances” and that is exactly what I decided to do.After several weeks of orientation I was finally designated to work in the helminthology laboratory where I learnt all about this parasite Wuchereria Bancrofti, the parasite that spreads bancroftian filariasis. I learnt to identify microfilariae of Wuchereria Bancrofti and Onchocerca volvulus. I learnt to dissect mosquitoes for infective larvae and the lab diagnosis of several parasites including schistosomes, hookworms, Trichuris etc. At the time mine was a predominantly wormy world and the people who truly initiated me into the wonderful world of worms were some great lab technicians and lab assistants who gave me the best hands on training I ever had. I treasure this training because it has played a great role in making me who I am today. One lab assistant liked to remind me that he started working on the month I was born. It didn’t affect me that they treated me like a kid I just soaked up all the information that was being given to me and enjoyed every moment. My family sometimes worried about how i was doing I would phone them from our old handle phones connected through the tiny exchange to tell them that I was doing fine and that I actually liked it there.
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