The importance of interactive and multi-disciplinary workshops in bioethics

July 24th 2018

In June, the Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Genetics Education in Research (GINGER), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry at Makerere University organised and delivered an interactive training workshop in research methods and analysis in Kampala, Uganda. This is one of the ways in which the GINGER program aims to build capacity in neuropsychiatric genetics research in selected African countries.

Students and researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and the wider College of Health Sciences at Makerere University, were offered a range of courses including bioethics, biostatistics, and R programming. The bioethics sessions were led and delivered by members of the AEWG, Dr. Janet Nakigudde and Dr. Erisa Mwaka, where over 60 students and researchers attended, taking part in stimulating ethical debates.

The interactive and multi-disciplinary discussions allowed students and researchers to engage and discuss ethical issues they encountered in their line of research. These discussions were valuable in increasing awareness of ethical issues that are not systematically researched. One of the key themes in this discussion was that of cultural issues the researchers encountered. They highlighted ethnic and linguistic diversity within the country and urban-rural differences. For example, for the Buganda tribe, the placenta is held in high esteem, where a portion of the cord attached to the baby must be carefully preserved to ensure the good health of the child. It was also stated it could be seen as a second child with its own spirit that resides in the umbilical cord. Whether the same will apply to immortal cultured cell lines used in neuropsychiatric genetics remains to be investigated. In regards to linguistic diversity, researchers mentioned the translational difficulties of the consent forms, where there were challenges to participants’ comprehension even as the forms have been translated into local languages.

Overall, Dr. Nakigudde and Dr. Mwaka were successful in delivering an insightful bioethics session, and the interactive training workshop was a success in demonstrating ethical capacity building efforts through effective partnership and co-production.