Lydia Mbatidde is on a mission to prevent the spread of HIV.
As a medical student studying in Kampala, Uganda, she interned working with HIV positive patients and learned about how it affects every symptom of the body.
She saw patients devastated by the full-blown symptoms, and she checked in on patients who returned to their lives with treatment — knowing that stopping treatments would land them back in the hospital. She learned about the devastating effects of the spread of HIV in countries like South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, which have the highest infection rates with as many as one in four people testing positive for HIV.
She wonders why the preventative measures that are working in Uganda, where the infection rate is 6.5 percent, are not working in these other nations.
She wants to do something about it and sees prevention as the key. That’s what brought her to Plymouth, Minnesota, to attend the applied clinical research program at St. Cloud State University.
“I decided to find a clinical research program that would give me more knowledge of how to conduct both core research and outpatient research,” she said, adding that St. Cloud State’s program also provides a solid understanding of medical devices, regulation and quality control.
Since infectious disease is the leading cause of illness in Uganda, Mbatidde’s work has all been in pharma research and she didn’t have much familiarity with how medical devices get to market.
Having those three skills together — research, regulations and quality control is a unique option for a clinical research program and a benefit to students studying at St. Cloud State, Mbatidde said.
St. Cloud State’s program is good because everything is relevant, and all the classwork is a roundup of what you would be doing in your area of practice or back in the field, she added.
It’s designed in a way that everything that is taught in class is actually applicable,” she said. “… And I think having an MD background and an HIV clinical research background is actually putting me in the right position to be able to balance both.”
Discovery of the interconnected-nature of the MedTech programs inspired her to write a proposal for the Global Engagement Summit April 17-21 at Northwestern University.
Now she is preparing to show how the three MedTech programs work together to bring products to market by looking at how they relate in the use of an already existing drug infusion pump to treat the continuation phase of drug-resistant tuberculosis. She modified the idea from an in-class presentation by Applied Clinical Research student Arwa Chaiwala, Applied Clinical Research student JohnKennedy Chimezie, Regulatory Affairs and Services student Patti Filkins, Medical Technology Quality student Claudia Muntifering and Applied Clinical Research student Cheryl Zellmer looking at treating the latent phase of tuberculosis with an infusion pump.
Mbatidde saw how the same ideas could be modified to treat the continuation phase of tuberculosis and be shown at the Summit in a way that shows the interconnectedness of research, quality control and regulation. Thus, enhancing the MedTech programs’ visibility.
St. Cloud State’s MedTech programs are truly unique because the applied clinical research program is one of the few in the world that has a medical device focus, she said.
“Most clinical research programs I looked at were only looking at pharma,” she said, adding that the focus on devices will give her a unique skill set that can be applied anywhere in the world.
Graduate and undergraduate students from throughout the world participate in the Global Engagement Summit. The week-long summit is held each April at Northwestern University in Chicago. The delegates are entrepreneurs with social change ventures in the idea phase. These initiative seek to develop social change in areas as varied as education, healthcare and sustainability. Summit mentors offer workshops and individualized mentoring for students to help them improve the idea and create change.
This will be Mbatidde’s second time participating in the Summit. As an undergraduate, participated in 2016 with an initiative that addresses HIV among adolescents.
Mbatidde earned an opportunity to be mentored by Noelle Sullivan that year and was also named a finalist for Global Giving, but was not able to continue on as a finalist due to the commitments of her final internship.
Her idea lives on today through the Society of Adolescent Health in Uganda, which is seeking funding to implement the idea in eastern Uganda.
Mbatidde completed her bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery in 2015 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. While doing her rotations in her fourth and fifth years, she served much of her time on an infectious disease ward where she saw the effects of HIV.
“If we can reduce the spread of the infection, I think that’s the happiest world we can leave,” she said.
After graduating, Mbatidde spent two years working at IDI, a Centers for Disease and Prevention funded organization that treats and does much research in infectious diseases.
Part of her drive to prevent HIV is the work she’s done with orphans and vulnerable children because they are so little and don’t know when they are supposed to take their drugs. Their outcome depends on their caregivers.
“Kids are kids, when they improve they are up and playing. You can tell when they’re sick, when they’re very sick they can’t play,” she said.
In addition to participating in the Global Engagement Summit this spring, Mbatidde is working on a paper with a colleague she met at the Summit in 2016 to write a paper meant to analyze the outcomes of the New Test and Treatment Policy in the management of HIV in Uganda.
“Once I complete my program I want to be able to write,” she said. “I took this program to be able to write my own research and be able to publish my own research — to work with people and conduct trials. I still want to work in the HIV world.”
Editors note: This story has been updated April 19, 2019. The original story contained an error that Lydia Mbatidde won an award in relation to the Global Engagement Summit. She did not win an award but rather earned the opportunity to work with a mentor. The Global Engagement Summit was not interviewed as part of this story.
U.S. Bank Scholarship honoree
In addition to participating at an international seminar, this spring Lydia Mbatidde was also the grand prize recipient of the $20,000 financial education-focused 2018 U. S. Bank Student Union Scholarship.
To empower students to take action toward their financial wellbeing, U.S. Bank includes a series of eight online financial education courses covering topics such as credit and investing.
Mbatidde took the U.S. Bank financial courses and found them beneficial for any student. As an international student studying in the United States, she was especially informed by the course about managing financial documents with its focus on securing your Social Security number.
Over the course of two decades, US. Bank has provided more than $500,000 in scholarships to college students across the country through the program.