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Malaria Partners International board member Jim Mulry, the Head of Diagnostics for the Global Health Initiative for Merck (Germany), specializes in introducing new medical technologies into emerging economies. This month, Jim shares about his new microscopy project in Ghana and how it will potentially impact and improve the health of many suffering from malaria and other diseases.

“In a meeting with the Merck management last April, I was asked what platform for diagnostics could make the most impact for healthcare in Africa.  My answer was microscopy because it addresses the cause of fevers and the classification of anemia.  It addresses fevers like Dengue and malaria that affect millions. Microscopes are now portable, affordable, powered by rechargeable batteries and therefore easier to maintain.  Microscopy is still the reference method to detect morphology. It is imperative that healthcare workers learn cell morphology and reference methods to be successful in understanding results from newer technologies.

In June, I was asked to source potential microscopy stations.  After researching, I selected the scopes from Radical Scientific of India.  My Rotary colleague and fellow Malaria Partners International Board Member, Larry Granat, bought one of the Radical microscopes and is now learning microscopy.  In August 2018, I was asked to design a project to place 100 microscopy stations in Ghana.  A meeting was held with Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addu, the first lady of Ghana.  She has a personal charity called Infanta, which provides healthcare centers in rural, tribal communities. She asked the Merck Global Health Initiative to raise money for microscopy stations to teach healthcare workers cell morphology and elementary microscopy. One of my colleagues had a connection at the Noguchi Medical Research Center in Accra.  We contacted Drs. William Ampofo and Michael Ofori from Noguchi.  They offered the ability to use the medical school there as a training site.  They have a new building with modern teaching laboratories.

Merck management asked me to ensure the project would be sustainable.  Thus, a new distribution business will be created that will provide both a source of reagents and disposables for the aftermarket.  In addition, the distributor will be trained to maintain the microscopes over time.  The plan, including training of the designated service person, went through rigorous review and approval in Ghana, including by Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director General at the Ghana Health Service (GHS).  This is very important because GHS controls all the hospitals where severely positive patients are treated.  Dr. Nsaih-Asare asked that GHS providers be included with the Infanta team in the training and Infanta agreed.  The plan was acceptable to all.

In November, I made the journey to Accra to further develop the plan.  I met with the dignitaries from Infanta, GHS and Noguchi and visited the new laboratory facilities.  I was asked to deliver a presentation concerning diagnostic entrepreneurial projects as a visiting professor at the Noguchi Medical Research Center.  I addressed the medical students there concerning the topic. With all of the organizations involved, I reviewed the ingredients of the microscopy stations, the materials involved, and the plan concerning the training. I want to thank our Malaria Partners International Board colleague, Ms. Sala Sweet, who contacted me and made the introduction to her friend, Dr. Effe Commeh from GHS.  I had dinner with Dr. Commeh who is also active in Rotary.  She promised to contact Dr. Ofori to become involved with the training.

Merck is the inventor of several hematology stains going back to development in 1855.  Last week, I met in Saint Louis with Dr. Shalmica Jackson of Millipore Sigma, a division of Merck.  Dr. Jackson loves this project!  I gave her a list of supplies required including the stains of which she is one of the world’s most foremost experts.  She promised to donate stains for the initial training and help me source the supplies at a reduced cost.

Last week, I also updated Merck management concerning this project.  During the meeting, I was informed that this project should be expanded beyond Ghana.  In particular, a request has been formally made by the Ministry of Health in Uganda for training healthcare workers.  I believe this initiative represents an excellent opportunity for partnership to improve the diagnostics around malaria and other diseases. My desire is to work with Rotary and Malaria Partners International to expand the project where needed within Malaria Partners International activity including Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia”.

Written by Jim Mulry