Category Archives: Profile

The Talent & Know-How: Dr. Simani Gaseitsiwe Becomes BHP Lab Director

Simani Gaseitsiwe

If a boy from a Botswana village wins second place in the national science fair for a project on optimizing alcoholic brews, predictions about his future could involve his getting into trouble, or working for a large beer company, or, if you’re Dr. Simani Gaseitsiwe, becoming the director of one of Africa’s top research labs. Continue reading

Confronting Discrimination from Mokubilo to Jackson

Marni von Wilpert and friends in Mokubilo, Botswana

Marni von Wilpert’s Uncommon Path

After graduating from Berkeley in 2005, Marni von Wilpert left California to serve as a social worker in the Peace Corps. She was sent to Mokubilo, a rural village in eastern Botswana. There, she provided services for babies born with HIV and children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. She also helped with education, treatment, and care for HIV-positive adults.

“I witnessed a lot of discrimination in my village,” said von Wilpert. “Kids were kicked out of the one primary school in the village and told they couldn’t come back because they were showing signs of HIV infection. A lot of women were divorced by their husbands because women were often the ones to test first since they’re the ones to get pregnant. There was only so much I could do as a social worker. I became convinced that legal assistance could make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who faced discrimination. From my village in Botswana, I applied to law school.”

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Jonathan You: Health Justice and the Importance of Being Heard

Jonathan You at work in the Essex Lab

By Martha Henry

Teenagers aren’t generally known for their self-awareness and commitment to service. Jonathan You is an exception.

The nineteen-year-old rising junior at Harvard is majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. “My academic interest in global health was sparked by Case Studies in Global Health: Biosocial Perspectives, a class that provided me with novel viewpoints on healthcare inequity and social medicine,” he said.

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Sikhulile Moyo

President Mogae Sikhulile Moyo Photo by Dave Cliff

A native of Zimbabwe, Sikhulile Moyo moved to Botswana after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Zimbabwe, Harare in 1996. He started working at the Botswana Harvard Partnership as a Lab Assistant in 2003 and was promoted to Laboratory Coordinator, then Deputy Lab Manager, then to his current position as Lab Manager.

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Erik van Widenfelt

When he first arrived in Botswana, Erik wasn’t an IT guy. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in cellular and molecular biology, he joined the Peace Corps in 1986 and taught science and English in Ghanzi, a dusty outpost on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. When his two-year assignment was up, he stayed on.

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Kathleen Wirth: In Search of the Purposeful

 

Growing up, Kathleen Wirth knew she wanted to see the world outside of her small hometown of Irmo, South Carolina. She felt she didn’t quite fit in. Her mother’s family had fled from Cuba in 1960. Her grandfather, who’d been a respected doctor in Havana, worked as a hospital janitor until he could qualify to practice medicine in America. Though she got into minor trouble, it wasn’t enough to keep Kathleen from becoming her high school valedictorian. A scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill was her ticket out of Irmo.

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Young Scientists at the Botswana Harvard Partnership

Young Scientists at the Botswana Harvard Partnership
Vignettes by Caroline Park

At the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership Lab (BHP) in Gaborone, Botswana, a handful of research scientists come in from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday, and immerse themselves in their various projects.

Who exactly are these scientists who toil under BHP’s roof? Where do they come from and what do they do in their spare time? To answer these questions, I briefly interviewed a few of our busy young scientists and composed brief vignettes of their lives. Continue reading

Morgan Packer: Doing What Needs to Get Done

 

Loading file cabinets onto a truck in Lobatse, Botswana wasn’t in Morgan Packers’ job description. Neither was pressing contractors to bring renovations up to code at the Nyangabgwe Hospital Clinic, but unhesitatingly, she did both.

“She’s someone you trust to do a job well and on time,” said Dr. Shahin Lockman, one of Morgan’s mentors. “She’s resourceful, adaptable, and has the ability to work with new people in a completely new environment,” said Dr. Kenneth Maswabi, a colleague in Botswana. “Doing whatever needs to get done, that’s the nature of project management,” said Morgan herself. Continue reading

Dr. Raabya Rossenkhan: The Will to Make It Work

Dr. Raabya Rossenkhan working with a colleague in the BHP Lab

Raabya Rossenkhan was always interested in science, so majoring in biology at the University of Botswana (UB) was an obvious choice. When she was offered a scholarship to continue her education, she saw the need to study HIV/AIDS. The year was 2003. In Botswana, the HIV prevalence among pregnant women was almost 40%.

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