Interview: Hilya Ekandjo of UNAM about her two-week training at UCT

Capacity building is an essential pillar of the StatinTB project. This fall, Hilya Ekandjo, Study Nurse at the University of Namibia (UNAM), travelled to South Africa to complete a two-week data management training with the team at the University of Cape Town (UCT). 

The StatinTB communications team recently caught up with Ms Ekandjo, now back in Windhoek, Namibia, to learn how she experienced the training and how she applies her new knowledge and skills in her daily work. 

Data Management Training 

Ms Ekandjo’s stay at UCT was initially planned for last summer but travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to push back the trip until this October. She arrived in Cape Town on October 31, 2021 and the training, led by StatinTB Principal Investigator Dr Sandra Mukasa in collaboration with Antoneta Mashinyira, kicked off two days later. 

The first days focused on data management. The team at UCT shared best practices and lessons learned from their work with the StatinTB study. Together with Ms Ekandjo, they also reviewed and explored how the UNAM data management process can be streamlined, focusing on mechanisms for improving data security.

“Learning about how the team at UCT manages patient data at different steps of their studies was a real eye-opener for me. UNAM is still a young research institute, and we can learn a lot from teams that have experience working with larger studies such as StatinTB,” says Ms Ekandjo. 

One very tangible new skill that Ms Ekandjo developed during the training was working with the data management software REDCap. The UNAM team is currently organizing their data in Excel spreadsheets but is now thinking about transferring their data to REDCap.  

“The system automatically alerts you when data is missing or has been added incorrectly. With this system, we could detect errors more easily and improve our data security,” says Ms Ekandjo. 

Ms Ekandjo also explored Google Drive with her colleagues at UCT during her stay in Cape Town. This session helped her understand the pros and cons of different file management systems and equipped her with new skills to manage collaboration in large or remote teams. 

Passing on her new skills to colleagues at UNAM 

UNAM recently recruited a new study coordinator responsible for the standard operating procedures of the university’s clinical studies. She and Ms Ekandjo will collaborate and look at how best practices from the UCT team can be translated and implemented at UNAM. 

“It feels great that I can pass on my new knowledge and skills to others here,” says Ms Ekandjo. 

While she describes the training as a tremendous learning opportunity, she also underlines that the training provided her with more than new hard skills. It also helped strengthen her connection with her colleagues at the UCT. 

“They made me feel welcome from day one, and I feel that I can reconnect with them if I ever have any follow-up questions or feel stuck in my work,” says Ms Ekandjo.

Antoneta Mashinyira and Hilya Ekandjo (closest to the camera) during one of the training sessions.