Eugene KinyandaHead of the Mental Health Project at the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research UnitSenior Research Fellowships in Public Health and Tropical Medicine
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Getting Wellcome Trust funding
What attracted you to Wellcome and to this scheme?
Wellcome is a respected international funder of science and it has always been my dream to access one of its funding schemes.
The Senior Research Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine is very prestigious, and I am the first Ugandan to get this award. I think Wellcome funding opens doors to other funding mechanisms and raises my profile in the scientific world.
What aspects of the funding are most useful to you?
Most of the other funders I’ve worked with provide one-off funding. I’ve decided that I want a career as a scientist so Wellcome is attractive because it provides a career development path – it supports your research projects, but also your development as a scientist.
What do you think about Wellcome’s application process?
It’s very detailed. You begin with a concept proposal, which has a very short turnaround, and then you develop your full proposal, which is a very exhausting stage.
I missed one deadline because I couldn’t get my application ready in time. Not only are you writing but you’re also asking your collaborators to mentor your proposal. By the time you finish your application, you have really thought it through and have a good proposal. Wellcome staff have been very supportive. Whenever you ask questions, they’re available.
How challenging have you found it to secure funding?
It is challenging because most African countries don’t have access to such funding, so we have to go to Europe or the USA to look for research funding.
But I’ve been reasonably lucky and I’ve managed to secure regular funding since I joined the MRC in 2007. I have found that if you plan and apply for a new grant before your existing grant finishes, it helps. I’ve only had two rejections so far which, for a career that started in 2007, I think is a good record.
What advice would you give to other applicants?
If you’re applying for a senior Wellcome fellowship, your preparation needs to begin ten years before. It’s not something that you wake up and do one morning.
You must set up your career in research and work towards it – write publications, secure other grants and, eventually, when you have achieved seniority in your area, you may qualify for a senior Wellcome fellowship.
- 2014–present Senior Investigator Scientist with the MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS
- 2014–present Honorary Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- 2011–2013 Africa Director of the Peter C. Alderman Foundation
- 2011–2013 Honorary Associate Professor, Makerere University, Uganda
- 2007–2013 Research Manager/ Senior Scientist, MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS
- 2000–2007 PhD, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
- 1999–2007 Psychiatrist, Butabika National Psychiatric Referral Hospital, Uganda
What have been the defining moments of your career so far?
The first moment was when I decided to specialise in psychiatry. In my country you have to do a research project during your medical specialisation, and I did my research in HIV. I think it was only the second study looking at psychiatric problems in people with HIV in Uganda, and that set me off on a career path in HIV research.
The second milestone was my PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. One of the requirements was that I had to write and publish papers, and that helped to demystify the publication process for me.
Another milestone was when I got the opportunity to join the MRC, because when I finished my PhD there weren’t that many research positions in the country. Being at the MRC, given how good its infrastructure is, has helped my career greatly.
Research and public engagement
What’s the key question you're addressing?
Research shows that 30% of patients with HIV develop a depressive disorder at some point. But most of the HIV care in Uganda and in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa does not include mental health care. So this project aims to develop a model that will integrate depression management into HIV care in Uganda.
How are you going about developing your model?
For the first 18 months we’ll be developing the intervention. This will involve a series of meetings with different stakeholders, including patient groups and healthcare workers, to look at the different aspects of the model and see how these can be implemented in Uganda.
We’re going to adapt the MANAS model, developed in India, for integrating depression and anxiety management in primary care. Then we’ll do a pilot, and, once we’re happy with it, we’ll subject it to a randomised control trial in Uganda.
What public engagement or outreach work do you do?
The new Ugandan Ministry of Health guidelines for HIV care, released last year, call for the assessment and management of depression to be included in HIV care, so I’m planning to work with the ministry in developing this.
I’m also going to work with patient groups and NGOs that are involved in both HIV care and mental health care. My hope is that the Ministry of Health will eventually adopt our model for scaling up depression management in HIV care.
- Kinyanda E et al. Major depressive disorder and suicidality in early HIV infection and its association with risk factors and negative outcomes as seen in semi-urban and rural Uganda. J Affect Disord 2017; 212:117-127.
- Kinyanda E et al. Incidence and persistence of major depressive disorder among people living with HIV in Uganda. AIDS Behav. 2017; 21(6):1641-1654.
- Kinyanda E et al. The management of adult psychiatric emergencies in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review. Lancet Psychiatry 2015; 2(6):540-7.