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Research royalty

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Research royalty

29-year-old Masego Julia Gaorekwe was recently appointed Western Institutional Review Board (WIRB) reviewer.

The brainy Mahalapye-born beauty, a Research Ethics Assistant at the University of Botswana (UB), is the first Motswana to make it onto the prestigious 51-year-old board.

She was selected after impressing on the organisation’s fellowship programme in America.

WIRB’s role is to protect the rights and welfare of the Human Research Subject.

It offers research review services for more than 400 institutions, including contract research organisations, coordinating groups and individual investigators around the world.

It has been designed for global research professionals who intend to establish or improve Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in their home countries.

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo sat down with Gaorekwe to discuss her career journey and her historic appointment to the international review body.

Q. What does being part of the Institutional Review Board mean to you?

A. This is the biggest achievement ever! People from Botswana have attended the programme before and none of them was appointed so I am the first Motswana to be part of the board.

Some of the products we see in the markets, be it vaccines, medical equipment and others have been reviewed by this board.

What it means is that when there is protocol or research to be done in Botswana I will be given the responsibility to review it because it’s done in my country.

I am an adviser and advocate for my country looking at our regulations and culture.

This is good for my professional growth and also for my employer and country’s recognition.

Q. How long did it take you to complete the programme?

A. For three months we were doing theory and had presentations and tests to write afterwards.

I did well and they accepted me to be a board member.

It was a tough journey and at some point I thought of quitting but I had to be patient for my nation.

Coming from a Social Science background and now venturing into the medical background was a transition.

What they do is they deal with protocol from the biggest medical companies in the world so they believe that if you are an ethics person you can review any research proposal.

I managed because they are advanced and have the review templates.

The difficult thing is in America, each state has its own laws so you need to understand that before you review their protocol unlike here where we have one common law.

It was a big challenge and was extra work because I had to learn what each state says regarding what is in the research proposal.

I was called for interview after the programme and a week later I received a letter of appointment.

Q. What is WIRB’s mandate?

A. We review clinical trials and also do trainings.

It has about 10 panels and I sit on five that I can be able to vote.

We review oncology cancer studies and medical devices among others.

I am working on a proposal to have a UB board that reviews medical devices.

Q. How will Botswana benefit from your appointment, especially in the health sector?

A. I believe that we have potential in so many things because already we train Ministry of Health and Wellness ethics board members.

What I have realised is that we only train them on certain type of areas forgetting that medical research is very broad.

Today, if you want to have a knowledge-based economy you have to develop certain things and come up with devices.

That is innovation. We need people who can review that device research proposal so that you can make proper decisions.

I think our country needs to invest in research and have stronger ethical bodies like other countries.

When you look at the policies we have here they are just too silent on so many things.

We don’t even have anything that talks about medical devices.

I don’t think we have a Health Research Bill and by the time it comes, with research changing all the time, it will be outdated.

Q. Why is it important for Botswana to have Health Research Bill?

A. People come here for so many things and it is very painful because we still refer to the Anthropological Research Act of 1971.

Somebody is only charged P400 for research misconduct and whatever they have, even if it’s a sample – it is millions of money that Botswana is losing!

This is one thing our country should really look into.

We have a research application which is just a guideline whereas in some countries they have a contract that binds you.

Research royalty
HONOURED: Masego Gaorekwe receiving International Review Board award

In terms of ethics, what we lack is to ensure there is proper conduct of research because you cannot only give people permits without going back and auditing.

Q. How do you know that they are doing what they had applied to research on when you are not monitoring?

A. What does your role entail as a Research Ethics Assistant at UB?

I train staff, students and people from outside on research ethics and compliance.

I used to conduct undergraduate proposals in their review and liaise between the government and UB in terms of processing their payments.

I am now mostly doing social behavioral studies for Masters and PhD students.

Q. Why is it important to have researchers?

A. It is very vital. Now we have ARV tablets out of research, the shift in HIV treatment from when it started, you can see there are lots of positives.

It is not only in terms of health but in business, policy making and other areas.

Right now we need researchers to find out how we can diversify the economy, which models can work here and not a situation where we are just bombarded with programmes that we never tested anywhere.

We need a Ministry or Research Council that focuses on the research not relying on Public Relations Office that know nothing about ethics and research.

In South Africa they have a Research Council and that is where most research review laws are made.

Their innovation is being funded and embraced by the people.

When you come to Botswana you will be sent from one Ministry to the other not knowing where to get help!

Q. So what makes a good researcher?

A. You need to be very ethical.

You also have to read books.

There is what we call professional ethical codes and in research we have principles that you need to abide by.

When you conduct a study, know that it is for the benefit of the community, you don’t have hidden agendas and respect participants, share the outcomes.

People confuse research with therapeutic misconception where you participate in a study and you are not told it is research.

We need to raise awareness on that issue.

Q. What are your future plans as far as your career is concerned?

A. I want to be more into regulation and compliance, that is where I see a lot of irregularities.

I should be able to advise or help draft some of the regulations for this country in terms of research.

That is where my career is going. I also have interest in traditional medicines in terms of research, which currently we do not have.

We have the potential to produce what is ours.

We do not want to cry when researchers from other countries come here and discover a tree that can cure certain diseases when we are not doing it!

We need people who can review our traditional medicines and make sure they comply locally and internationally.

Q. I remember there was lady in Palapye who said she knows a herb that can cure HIV/AIDS. Why has it taken so long to have traditional medicines researched?

A. (Laughing) I wouldn’t want to talk about the Palapye herbalist but in general when it comes to traditional medicines it is a complex field.

When you look at the Chinese medicines they do research and work with universities to test their products.

I do not know whether it is a problem with our herbalists that they don’t want to reveal the tree they make their herbs from.

They are very secretive, especially when it comes to traditional knowledge.

In Africa it is difficult because we also believe in spiritual things and you cannot question it.

That is now where the problem is.

We need evidence, we need to conduct some tests.

Q. If it works why don’t you commercialise it and diversify the economy?

A. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I will be preparing for my trip to Pretoria, South Africa.

I will be attending EU meeting and Science Fair.

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United lounge launch

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United lounge launch

Having closed its doors for renovations at the beginning of the year, United lounge will re-open its doors with a blazing line up lead by South African artist, Caiiro.

He will share the stage with the Legendary Easy B, Teaz, hapex Guru, DJ KSB, Sly, TMan, Allan Govie, Nfazo, Cee, Roxx, Madala and La Spooner.

The energetic Kokwana will be the Mc for the night.

A bucket of Castle lite worthy P80 will guarantee you an entrance or else one will have to part with P50.

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Fun Q & A chat with local celebrities

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Voice Lifestyle Fun Q and A chatting about the latest trends and what’s happening with our special guests this week Dj Root, Miss Abbey and Mdu Tha Party. Check it out!!

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Blessed, burdened, brilliant

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*ATI TO CALL IT QUITS

It appears one of the country’s most talented, talked about and admired artists is poised to take his musical talents in a different direction.

In an exclusive, emotional interview with Voice Entertainment, ATI revealed he will drop his eagerly-anticipated album this year.

He then intends to take a hiatus from releasing music.

Instead the rapper plans to focus on other things, such as using his abilities to help push upcoming artists.

“I love music. I love the art of music but I am at a point where I need to give back. I am done being the man of the music. Being at the forefront is not entirely what I like. I can express myself through other people, even if I am not at the forefront!”

Tracking down the superstar is not easy. After a six-hour wait – the interview finally went ahead at 8 pm this Saturday at his manager’s home – the ‘Ceaser 2 Ceaser’ singer is in a talkative mood.

Whilst stressing he has never taken his music career ‘for granted’, ATI talks passionately about how he had lost himself and hit rock bottom.

“I got to a point where I had to find balance within myself. To understand that I need to go back to the foundation of what I do, by being conscious of what and how I do things with my craft,” he explains.

Asked to elaborate, the-eight time Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) Award Winner responds, “I have never been content with what I had, what I achieved, despite the money I made. I had to pull backwards to seek that balance. If I was going to continue being reckless with my life I was going to be destructive. I had to be cautious of the people that look up to me.”

Dwelling on his unhappiness, ATI, his handsome face for once not adorned with its trademark black teardrop, adds, “It was not even about the financial part. I was not content. I was not happy. I could not enjoy the financial gain I was getting. I was not at peace. It drove me off from being a complete person with a soul. I couldn’t be happy. I had to step back despite the fact that I knew the chaos it would cause.”

He also struggled with fame and admits it has taken a heavy toll on his life.

“I am not okay and I need to take a step back and get my house in order. When I started I wanted to be a big star. I later realised I am not that kind of person. I am the kind of person who really cares what people say and believe about me. I have endured pain for so many years, from childhood – it came back to me, I had to confront the pain!”

As for his limited success on the international stage, the philosophical star reflects, “The only reason I had not gone international is I knew deep down I was not ready to represent my country when I was not balanced. Now I am moving towards becoming a complete person, now I can enjoy what I have been blessed with. When you are imbalanced you cannot enjoy what you have been blessed with.

“I was blessed because I got help from expensive rehab and therapists as I have been blessed to have access to. I had to confront issues. I was tricked into thinking substance abuse can avert the pain!”

He insists he knows better now.

“The thing with pain is you feel it, it’s either you confront it or you die. I am speaking from experience.”

Repeating his desire to step back, ATI reiterates, “I am one person who will walk away from a successful career to develop myself to become a complete human being. It is not just about the money. I had to choose whether to move away from myself or go through the storm and I am coming out of it.”

As for his upcoming album, it promises to be some swansong

“With this album I hope it will be there for those who have nobody just like when I was going through the worst, I needed that someone. The plot twist and turn of events that I have been through is what the album is about.”

Asked what the most difficult thing about being ATI is, the ‘Khiring Khorong’ hit-maker responds, “Lack of understanding. As much as we (artists) are celebrated we also need to be understood that we are children from homes. Some of us are from broken homes.”

And is there a significant other in the singer’s life to help nurse him through his pain?

“ATI is not taken until I am balanced. Recovery is not at the expectation of other people, but it is at the pace in which you heal!”

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