In the words of Professor Emerita Sonia Buist, “leadership is not necessarily an intuitive skill and needs to be learned.

When I started my career, leadership was not really understood, and there were no programs teaching these skills. I wish I had the opportunity to learn these skills.” This was the perfect guidance I needed to maximize the Buist Pathway to Leadership Award (BPLA).  

As a Research Director in sub-Saharan Africa, I am aware of the benefits of strong leadership skills to my current roles as well as my long-term goal of providing global health leadership in a world that a pandemic has redefined. The impact of the BPLA was multi-dimensional. First, it offered me the inspiration and financial leverage to strengthen my foundational leadership skills.

Secondly, it created a solid platform upon which I further developed more granular skills in global health leadership. Finally, it supported me in undertaking short courses relevant to clinical research implementation.  

I received the award at the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting my in-person training options. Fortunately, I heeded the counsel of Professor Buist and Dr. Uju Ozoh (the 2019 BPLA recipient) regarding the HarvardX Leadership Course, an online training initiative of Harvard University. Through the HavardX training, I sharpened my innate leadership acumen. I also garnered new skills that have continued to help me mobilize teams to meet the enormous adaptive challenges of clinical research and public health responses during a protracted pandemic.

Of particular importance are the new insights I acquired about intuitively identifying the work to be done; leading with, beyond and without authority; building trust; conflict management; and self-actualization in difficult times. I became more acutely aware of the need for compassionate leadership in unpredictable times. Building on this foundation, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the Center for Compassionate Leadership. This supported my participation in a highly-focused course on Compassionate Leadership and Resilience in Global Health. The experience was transformational.

I also leveraged the BPLA to undertake two short courses offered by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), namely Essentials of Clinical Trials and Advanced Course in Epidemiological Analysis. In support of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch (EIDB) and Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, I am Principal Investigator on multiple research projects on a range of infectious diseases, including Lassa, COVID-19, monkeypox and HIV. I found the LSHTM courses intrinsically beneficial to my current roles. I thank Professor Emerita Buist for funding this award. The Administrative Staff at the Pan African Thoracic Society are appreciated for coordinating the award. I am eternally grateful to the leadership of my organization at the HJF Medical Research International (HJFMRI), United States Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa/Nigeria (USAMRD-A/N), EIDB, and MHRP for supporting my participation in the BPLA and creating the enabling environment to build my capacity and manifest my potentials.

Michael Iroezindu, BPLA 2020 Recipient

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