Ssenyondwa Denis is an early-career researcher-dissemination, implementation, clinical, population health, and digital health practice and research in Sub-Saharan Africa. He was recognised and awarded with a special commendation award-digital health (use case model-based digital application to integrate public health interventions to address the health transition to double burden in SSA) in February 2021 by The University of Sydney and The University of Melbourne digital health week.
WiredUp had a Q & A interview session with Ssenyondwa Denis
Who is Denis, what is your background?
I’m a public health and health promotion professional with a registered comprehensive nursing background. I’m currently at RMIT University Australia, doing a graduate certificate in digital health. Additionally, I have done short duration skilling courses in clinical research and trials coordination, leadership and management in health, implementation research, Gender-based analysis of vector-borne diseases, and climate change from Kriger research Centre - Canada, University of Washington - the USA, University of Ghana, and University of Witwatersrand South Africa respectively.
I have a mixed work experience in the 12 years (2 years in Australia health system). Specifically, I have coordinated clinical research in liver elastography, digital immunological devices, epidemiology of HIV/Hepatitis, cancer, clinical trials, and as well, worked in acute, subacute, and aged care areas.
Give us an example of how you practically share your passion for the STEM field?
I participate in research design, conduct, and results sharing in conferences and publications. An example is my recent abstract: use-case-modeling in digital health at the University of Sydney Digital health week Feb -2021 where I was awarded a special commendation award and another Gender-based analysis in access to hospital-based non-communicable disease interventions at the global implementation conference. Currently, I have a systematic review protocol under peer review at the Global Implementation Research and Applications journal on implementation research patterns in integrated synergistic health systems adopting health-system-based WHO best buys for non-communicable diseases.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Lately, my interest was to make reality the implementation of evidence-based interventions in the East African health systems. Thus, recently at the global implementation conference, I was glad to connect with some committed global start-up thinkers to support my efforts to end the biomedical valley of death, and as well, optimise the opportunities associated with the global digital health revolution - starting in Masaka region in Uganda. This is perhaps the most important milestone I feel confident to propel and contribute to the sustainable development Goal (SDG) 3.
What challenges have you entered on your journey?
Numerous challenges but mentioning a few, the hardness in finding financial support to take higher-level academic studies especially at the university level, finding scientific mentors, and also finding like-minded people for which we can collaborate. Many of the scanty opportunities are tied to public universities in Uganda for example and are largely taken up by faculty senior staff, who on many occasions, unscrupulously choose their acquainted colleagues to receive mentorship. In addition, corruption is associated with conducting scientific research specifically where collegiate researchers decide to embezzle money without minding about potential research talents on their teams.
How have you overcome, or are working to overcome, some of these challenges?
They are normally system-based and resource-propelled challenges; very hard to overcome in Africa. Nonetheless, I have intensified the use of the internet in the last 10 years to seek opportunities available to advance my interest to used science to contribute to problem-solving, I’m making some efforts to openly share these challenges among funders and institutional leaders especially at the university platforms wherever such an opportunity arises. Hopefully, system thinking could be done to provide solutions. Lately, I’m reverting to writing to these similar audiences but have not yet been successful.
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in the STEM field?
There is a 20% rule in success – meaning that when you have 100 Smart ideas, only 20% will succeed. This is particularly even harder in Africa, therefore younger stars in STEM need to get inspired early and get started early, and accommodate more than one STEM ideas, that is, one's need to work beyond being a mathematician, etc. Secondly, focus on working with universities and innovators in STEM, these have the scarce resources necessary for someone to succeed in Africa.