Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Associate Professor Bebe Loff wins NIH grant for new master’s program in India

Associate Professor Bebe Loff, Director of the School’s Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights has won a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a master’s program in health and research ethics with Yenepoya University in India. Named for its founder, Mr Yenepoya Moideen Kunhi, Yenepoya University is sponsored by the Islamic Academy of Education Trust.

The master’s program will focus on the complex issues related to the ethics and governance of international collaborative clinical, public health and systems research.  The program aims to train India’s young researchers and bolster the number of people equipped and trained in research ethics to better equip them as researchers, strengthen institutional ethics committees and serve as policy-makers and regulators.

“The goal of this NIH initiative is to strengthen research ethics capacity in low and middle-income countries. This is achieved through increasing the number of scientists, health professionals and academics from these countries with an in-depth knowledge of the ethical principles, processes and policies related to international clinical and public health research,” said Associate Professor Loff.

Associate Professor Loff and Professor Vina Vaswani are the principal investigators for the program.  Professor Vaswani is Head of the Yenepoya Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology and Director of the Center for Ethics.

A number of the program’s teachers have worked extensively in the field, promoting the rights of, and access to healthcare for vulnerable populations.  Dr Shyamala Nataraj who obtained her Master’s and doctoral degrees at Monash University under the supervision of Associate Professor Loff Will teach in this program. Dr Nataraj is currently the chairperson of the South India AIDS action program (SIAAP).

“We want to encourage the master’s students to consider issues of global justice as well as how to minimise risks to participants that arise because of the nature of the research and the status and settings participant groups and their communities,” said Associate Professor Loff.

Associate Professor Loff has had a varied career that has included directing the legislative programs of health ministers and working with the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAIDS. She was a member of the ethical review committee of the World Health Organization and the Australian Health Ethics Committee. She also coordinates the Master of International Health here at SPHPM, which is currently on its last year.