Meet the beneficiaries of MeRck Embryology Training ProgramShare this story on :
The "Merck More than a Mother" initiative has collaborated with Asian Fertility experts to create a platform of standalone embryologists in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through its "Merck Embryology Training Program", healthcare providers from Sub-Saharan Africa experience hands-on practical training in partnership with the Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute (IRSI), Indonesia, and International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health (IIRRH), India. Eight candidates from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana have completed the embryology training program since June 2016 with more candidates from other Sub-Saharan Africa such as Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania, Liberia enrolled in the program.
"We truly believe in what has been stated by UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that access to adequate comprehensive reproductive health services, including fertility care, is a basic human right regardless of the economic circumstances in which individuals are born into. Therefore, the "Merck Embryology Training Program" will improve access to safe and cost-effective fertility care in Sub-Saharan Africa, since there are no embryologists in most of the African countries," said Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
Watch the videos of the candidates of the Merck Embryology Training Program
Dr Kamini Rao (centre) at the Merck Embryology Training Program graduation ceremony, India, 2017
Meet the beneficiaries Merck Embryology Training Program
Pauline Wanjiku Kibui
I got selected as a “Merck more than a Mother” campaign embryology trainer through the Kenya Fertility Association to represent Kenya at the Merck Africa Embryology Training Program in Indonesia. Training Kenyan embryologists and Africa as a whole will benefit the entire population as their services will be available to the local citizens at very good prices and of high quality. This was a good experience to advance my skills and my career in embryology. I am thankful to Merck Foundation for this opportunity and very excited as the program has answered most of my questions and cemented my knowledge in embryology. I will take back this knowledge back to my country.
Dr Emmanuel Okullo
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Merck Foundation is looking at improving awareness of infertility in Africa especially in Sub-Sharan Africa. Infertility needs to be bumped up amongst the necessary or crucial health benefits for the public. The other angle is male infertility which needs to be dealt with as we will go around in circles when treating infertility. Merck Foundation is also looking at the social impact of infertility especially to the woman and also to the man. A woman is more than a baby-making machine. How do we get the society to look at a woman not just as a baby making machine. It is for this that I am very proud to be associated with Merck Foundation. I am really thankful for this experience of the ‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ and excited to take this back to my country.
Dr Nicholaus Mazaguni, Tanzania
Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
The major challenge of infertility we face in our country is that there is a lack of awareness in our community. Majority of infertile couples in our country have never heard of ART, IUI or IVF. Infertility affects both men and women, but in our country you find the responsibility is put solely on the woman resulting in a lot of intimate partner and gender based violence. The second challenge is we have very few, if none at all, trained embryology personnel in our country- both embryologists and clinicians specifically trained in embryology techniques. The cost of fertility treatment therefore is very high so majority of our patients opt to go out of the country to receive treatment, which is problem. The last challenge is the lack of set policies and guidelines to govern ART and fertility practices.
The training we received through the Merck Africa Embryology Training Program has been well structured – first part being the anatomy and physiology of the male and female reproductive system; the second part was the theoretical aspect of art and the last part was the practical aspect of clinical embryology.
The opportunity we had to understand the basic principles of advanced clinical embryology so we can have good outcomes has been well covered. I am very grateful for Merck Foundation and Milann Fertility Centre who are working together had-in-hand for a well-structured training program. The staff at the centre involved in the training are dedicated in terms of making sure that by the time we complete this training we are independent embryologists who can stand alone and we can bring change to our society.
This is a huge responsibility that Merck Foundation has taken on - Building capacity in Africa - which is an important issue so we can tackle infertility, and I believe in the next five to ten years to come this will be A JOB WELL DONE!
Dr Kelvin Julius Msuya
I am very privileged to have been given this opportunity since this is the first batch of embryologists training in India. Merck Africa Embryology Training Program is really fruitful for giving us this opportunity which would have otherwise been difficult getting into. I would like to acknowledge and congratulate ‘Merck more than a Mother’ for having an ear onto under privileged societies and that’s how we got this opportunity of training. So I would like to say thank you to ‘Merck More than a Mother’ and ‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ for this opportunity as it not only helped us but our entire community where we are coming from.
Dr Pantaleo Roman Kavishe
Dr Birjna Hirani
In my country, health facilities are underdeveloped and in matters of infertility a lot of women are stigmatized and lose their self-esteem when they fail to get pregnant. Also, due to poverty they cannot afford infertility treatments in other countries abroad like India.
Infertility has an increasing prevalence and not only it affects the Africans but also the Asians and Arabs that reside in Tanzania, some customs have to accept polygamy just because they failed to conceive. Surrogacy in the country is not legal so those women who are infertile fight themselves as most are dump by their partners making them feel useless.
I see various patients from small villages who come to my infertility clinic and most I can afford is to give them clomiphene and letrozole and monitor their cycles but when I further want to use other methods I fail as I don’t have the adequate knowledge and the equipment’s to help them.
And thus, for me ‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ is my step that would lead me climb the stairs in achieving the accurate knowledge and the providing the right services to women who can build their own confidence and feel like a complete woman.
Dr. Enid Simon Gajaweera
I am so much grateful with Merck Foundation for giving me an opportunity to partake in Merck Africa Embryology Training Program specialist course.
This training has enabled me to acquire more knowledge and skills in my career on advanced Reproductive technology especially IVF which was a new thing to me. I had been read about it but could not see the practical aspect of it.
This course will be beneficial to my clients/patients since it has updated me on a proper way of counselling and treating patients with infertility. I have been seeing clients with fertility issues in my gynaecological clinic, but the training has made me to understand how fertility clinics should be conducted so our patients will not feel insecure, as most of them are facing lots of psychological problems.
There has been a rise in fertility cases in my country which has led to divorce/broken marriages as it has major impacts in African culture, due to the belief that for a woman to be qualified as a mother, she has to have given birth to children, but now I understand that there is more than being a mother.
Fertility treatments are costly, and infertility problem is facing the whole spectrum of society, from those who have good income to the low income group, Hence those who are able to get the right treatment are those who can afford it.
My duty will be to call upon the Government, Ministry of Health, policy maker to take a closer look at this problem so that it can be given priority. If the Government officials will take it seriously the required service will reach even to the needy one.
I was selected for the Merck Africa Embryology Training Program by the Ghana Association of Clinical Embryologists and the Fertility Society of Ghana. It is a taboo in our country when you see a couple not having a child. Couples tend to find themselves in all areas such as herbalists or “spiritual’ means in order to have a child. Finally before they end up in a fertility centre a lot might have gone wrong and if they could have been seen earlier, treatment for their infertility could have been easier. Statistics show that divorce rates in Ghana is linked to issues of infertility or childlessness.
Trainee Embryologist at Sinel Specialist Hospital, Ghana
It is a great honour and unique privilege to be selected by the Ghana Association of Clinical Embryologists (GACE) to be part of the Merck Africa Embryology Training Program.
Childlessness is the most vital reason for divorce in Africa including Ghana. The ultimate reason for marriage is to bear children who will continue the name of the family. When a woman gets married the next expectation is a child in a year or less. If this is not achieved, blame is quickly shifted to the woman without doubts, irrespective of any fertility screenings or evaluations done on the couple to rule out the issue. Once men also understand they could form a part of childlessness or understand infertility situations, they will always pull the women along and not allow women to be stigmatized in society. Financial constraints is also a key factor preventing infertile couples from accessing treatment in ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), resorting to traditional healing which sometimes result in medical complications.
‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ is very important to me because it has broadened my knowledge, sharpened my skills and answered a lot of questions on my mind as far as Embryology in ART is concerned. The Embryology course is well structured with dedicated trained professionals both in theory and practical (hands-on).
I will not remain silent about this training and awareness, but take the knowledge acquired through this training to my centre and share with colleagues in the field as well and make it known that the problem of infertility is not only a women issue and also be an ambassador for ‘Merck More than a Mother’ in my country.
Jubail Specialist Hospital and Fertility Centre
The Merck Africa Embryology Training Program is to me a dream come true for me. Infertility problems is now a big issue in the world and my country Ghana is no exception. Being infertile is a very big issue because of the stigmatization that comes with it. Having a child or children gives a person social recognition and status but if one has no child then he or she becomes a public ridicule. It is so serious because most don’t know where to seek help from. Those who also strife to seek help most of the time fall vulnerable to ill trained people or people without any requisite knowledge of their problems. Patients most of the time end up worsening their situations in the wrong hands. Some also find it difficult to seek help because of lack of proper education on the issues of fertility and in some cases, financial constraints.
The Merck Africa Embryology Training Program is vital in the sense that it equips health providers with accurate knowledge and skills in order to help educate, allay patient's fear and treat them with up to date modern methods or technology available. Merck Foundation is really doing a tremendous service beyond measure in this aspect of training in embryology/IVF.
Great job Merck Foundation for this initiative; your efforts to help this vulnerable group is greatly appreciated.
Priscilla Chinememma Friday
I arrived in Jakarta in January 2017 for the Merck Africa Embryology Training as part of Merck more than a Mother initiative. The training was wonderful as it has been hands-on since I arrived as we have been practising. So I’m very excited. After this Merck Africa Embryology Training I will be an ambassador for Merck Foundation promoting the fact that infertility is not only a problem with the woman. It’s good to know the facts. It’s good to know where the problem is coming from, sometimes this problem may be from the man. It’s not good to push the whole responsibility of infertility to the woman
I am an embryologists from Nigeria and here in Jakarta for the Merck Africa Embryology Training Program which is part of Merck more than a Mother to train African embryologists. From the very first week we arrived we were introduced to the lab from the andrology lab to sperm analysis and preparation, cryosciences, vitrification, assisted hatching and even the pre-implantation genetic screening. It has been wonderful! It has been a wonderful experience!
Social perception towards infertility remains a serious problem in my country, with women bearing the greatest brunt of the blame.
The growing infertility population is still stigmatized to the extent that some believe that they are not “normal humans”. Some efforts have been done through traditional herbalists with futile results. Also, there is no Assisted reproductive treatments like IVF, IUI and ICSI within the country to help eradicate the stigma.
This scholarship by Merck Foundation will help change perceptions on infertility, and the hands-on experience will impart skills for future embryological lab setting in my country, and when I return back to my country I will serve as an ambassador of Merck Foundation in creating awareness on assisted reproductive technology through various radio discussion and ultimately selling the idea of installing IVF and ICSI in the country.
Ms. Mahugnon Nelly Hermione
The specialized training program -Merck Africa Embryology Training Program- is of paramount importance for both the investigator and the patients who benefit from its application and for their country.
Indeed, this training allows me to acquire new knowledge, to update my knowledge, to deepen my acquisitions and to boost my motivation in the field of IVF. I will therefore be better equipped to respond effectively to the expectations of couples whose desire is to have a child. Thus, I can be more useful to mankind by participating in the alleviation and eradication of the distress afflicting this group of people.
The well-resourced specialized training program enables us to give hope to patients. Indeed, they can find explanations and solutions to their predicament.
Finally, this training will enable my country to solve a very important social problem of infertility which destroys many families. In addition, trained staff will effectively manage patients and avoid loss of life.
Amari Yed Toutress
This training gives me to better understand and what I am doing so how to give hope to couples affected and to reduce other forms of stigma that infertility brings.
Being part of creating new life and bringing hope to families is indeed a blessing, hence I consider working as an IVF Scientist is indeed rewarding. Thus mastery of IVF techniques, gaining knowledge and experience in ART techniques is of great importance. Along with the development of social media and technologies the awareness of fertility has increased, therefore many patients tend to approach IVF treatment more frequently. Thus being skilled in performing these techniques is important in order to give the best to our patients. Hence this training program will be vital in not only in enhancing my hands on skills but also in gaining more insight and knowledge in ART techniques which will be a tool in delivering highest success rates for our patients.
Experience in counselling will be a key tool in addressing the social stigma in our society that points the finger at the woman as the sole cause of sub fertility. To make them aware that it is actually a joint effect. In conclusion the ‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ will be of paramount importance not only in enhancing my skills and knowledge as an IVF Scientist but also in addressing cultural and social stigma.
Dr. Louise Mapleh Kpoto
‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ is extremely important for my patients and in extension my country because there is no infertility program in Liberia, while simultaneously the problem of infertility continuous to be a growing public health challenge for the population in that those in most need of the services do not have the financial resources to go abroad for help. I am confident this course is a window of opportunity to enable me not only to achieve my professional dream, but also give hope to the many infertile women to have children and happier families through (IVF) in-vitro fertilization.
Dr. Sulaiman S. Conteh
‘Merck Africa Embryology Training Program’ is important to me because it gives me the confidence in approaching an infertile couple which was lacking as the knowledge then was limited.
Secondly, for my patients they will be the beneficiaries from all the knowledge and skills I have acquired as i would be able to do proper counselling, assessments, and then come up with a good treatment plans that would eventually bring happiness in their lives.
Thirdly, in terms of addressing the challenges of fertility in my country i think the massive fertility campaigns that would sensitize the entire nation about the concept of infertility under the following headings:
- Firstly it is a medical condition that people usually attributes it to some evil spirit spell or traditional.
- It can affect both male and female, it is a common misconception that only females are affected.
- Create the platform wherein couple can willingly talk about it with the specialist concern as it another key deterrent because most of the times couple are ashamed to speak/ talk about it with their doctors.
Moreover, this will be an eye opener for my country and i am pretty sure that everybody will benefit from it.