Professor Julie Makani: Aiming to Address Inequities in Biomedical Science and Health

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Recently, Professor Julie Makani of Tanzania emerged one of eight laureates for the six health prizes announced at the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA73).

The World Health Assembly is the forum through which the World Health Organisation is governed by its 194 member states. It is the world’s highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states.

The World Health Assembly awards individuals or organisations that have made important milestones in health research. For her part, Professor Makani’s research work in hematology took her to winning the health laureate.

Her goal is to use sickle cell disease as a model to start scientific and healthcare solutions in Africa that are locally applicable, as well as having global import. She believes that achieving success in sickle cell disease will illustrate that with real global partnerships, inequities in biomedical science and health can be addressed and substantial advances can be achieved.

Makani’s research on anaemia and sickle cell disease has led to new understanding of the illnesses and also led to her being bestowed the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship for promoting excellence in biomedical science in Africa and the Royal Society Pfizer Award.

Her Sickle Cell Disease Consortium of Tanzania provides an academic and scientific environment that serves as a platform for the professional development of clinicians and scientists working to combat sickle cell disease. She is the Principal Investigator for the Sickle Cell Disease programme at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, a programme that has demonstrated how research translates into innovative health policies and clinical practices.

The programme also illustrates that effective global cooperation can build a critical mass of individuals and lead to substantial advances in health and biomedical science in public and family health. The programme also works closely with patient and advocacy groups.

In 2003 and 2011, Makani received training and intermediate fellowship respectively from the Wellcome Trust for the sickle cell disease programme. Also, In 2007, she received a fellowship to attend the TEDGlobal meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. In 2009, she received an Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship from the African Leadership Institute.

She was awarded The Royal Society Pfizer Award in 2011. In granting the award, Professor Lorna Casselton of the Royal Society, said: “We are extremely pleased to recognise such an impressive individual with the Royal Society Pfizer Award this year… We hope that Dr Makani stands as a role-model for other young Africans scientists wishing to make a difference on their continent and worldwide.”

In 2019, she was included in the list of BBC 100 Women.

Henry Onoghan

Henry Onoghan

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