Jules D. Millogo (MSc in Epidemiology of Communicable Diseases, 2000) is a Public Health physician with more than 25 years of experience working in developing countries at national and international levels. She currently serves as Director of Public Health and Partnerships at MSD (Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Inc. Kenilworth, NJ). In this blog piece, he discusses his non-profit organisation that improves the lives of the individuals who live in Burkina Faso, the country he grew up in. He also explains how his role in working with vaccines has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.
“My path to becoming a Public Health physician was a challenging one. I am originally from Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, and was fortunate that my father chose me as the only child out of seven surviving children in our family to go to school. There was no school in Konkourona, the village where I was born, so I was sent to live in a neighbouring village that had an elementary school. I somehow managed to overcome bouts of homelessness, hunger and illnesses from infectious diseases that often come with extreme poverty, and enjoy learning. After seeing six of my siblings die from preventable diseases, I was determined to become a physician. I managed to make my way through various educational institutions throughout the country all the way through medical school, after which I worked as a District Medical Officer in the country. After working as a Medical Officer, I held various positions inside and outside of the country in support of public health in an effort to save or improve as many lives as possible. In parallel, I did whatever I could to support family members and friends from my village fight extreme poverty.
“I had the good fortune of attending LSHTM in 1999. It changed my life dramatically, offering job opportunities in international organisations. Upon leaving the school, in September 2000, I was directly hired by the World Health Organization (WHO) to work in the Vaccine, Assessment and Monitoring Unit. The technical skills learnt in LSHTM helped me to interact with public health leaders from around the world without being intimidated. LSHTM training, in addition to my experience as Head of the National Immunization Program from a developing country, is a combination that gives me a perspective and a credible voice among my peers from within and outside of Industry. In short, attending LSHTM changed the course of my life in absolutely positive ways.
“Last year, I co-founded a non-profit organisation, Konkourona Alliance Foundation (KAFO), to empower the people in my village to do more good for more people. Our focus is on improving access to education, healthcare and water, which we hope will drastically improve their lives. So far, we have helped the villagers build new classrooms to reduce overcrowding and an office for the school Director and teachers. We are sending computers and monitors and supporting the purchase of textbooks so that when school starts in September, learning conditions will be so greatly improved. We are in the process of building houses for the teachers now so that they have a clean, safe place to live with their families during the school year, rather than having six teachers and the school Director live crowded in a single, two-room structure infested with bats. The houses are expected to be completed in September, after which we will focus on helping the community build a health centre with facilities for primary health and maternal care. The centre will also include a pharmacy, housing for healthcare workers and latrines. Our goal is to install the infrastructure to provide running water and electricity to all of the new healthcare facilities.
“Vaccination programs around the world- including programs using the company I work for (Merck Global Vaccine Division) products- have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. National Immunisation Programs have delayed vaccine introduction or suspended vaccination campaigns. This, of course, affects not only our company’s business but more importantly, public health. It is very likely that disease eradication, elimination or control programs will have set back, resulting in deaths that could have been averted. On a more direct level, my job as the Merck Liaison to WHO includes face-to-face interactions with counterparts in the global immunisation community has been severely hampered. Since March 2020, many meetings have been held virtually or cancelled. Working for Industry put me on a “lucky” group as I can work from home. I have full-time employment that is not directly affected by the current circumstances. I am very concerned about WHO and other organisations that have the direct responsibility of responding not only to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also other health emergencies such as Ebola, measles outbreaks, etc.”
Update: A school building for teachers have been now completed and Jules has now embarked on a campaign to build a health center in this village, with the goal of reducing maternal and child mortality from preventable diseases.
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