The elimination and ultimately eradication of malaria will require mobilizing and empowering leaders from every discipline. ExxonMobil and Harvard University are committed to advancing leadership development opportunities in malaria and empowering women scientists in Africa as part of the Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe initiative.
Dr. Anita Ghansah, the 2012 ExxonMobil Scholar of Malaria in Ghana, is a researcher at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, in Accra, Ghana, where she is part of a team of scientists investigating the genetic determinants of malaria resistance.
Malaria continues to be the leading cause of morbidity in Ghana and is also the number one cause of mortality in children under the age of five. By using molecular markers, Dr. Ghansah and colleagues monitor antimalarial drug resistance. Their findings have already yielded tremendous results and have led to policy changes that saw the country switch from the use of Chloroquine as the first-line therapy for malaria to Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies.
Anita’s long-standing dedication to fighting malaria in Ghana dates back to her graduate research, which she conducted at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and in collaboration with Oxford University. Dr. Ghansah is currently working to better understand the dynamics of malaria parasite populations in association with Indoor Residual Spraying campaigns at numerous field sites. She hopes this work will lead to new knowledge about how the parasite population is affected by a reduction in the mosquito population and how resistant parasites are transmitted during interventions. As the ExxonMobil Scholar of Malaria in Ghana, she completed intensive trainings at Harvard to gain the necessary skills to use state-of-the-art molecular barcoding technologies and High Resolution Melt analysis for malaria. During her stay at Harvard, she also had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Science of Eradication: Malaria leadership development course held at the Harvard Business School on Boston in June 2012. This leadership training effort brought together an international cohort of health ministry officials, researchers, scientists, and agency representatives, and provided a multidisciplinary perspective to malaria control and elimination.
Anita hopes that her research will ultimately help guide policy decisions regarding malaria control and elimination efforts in her home country, and help fight a disease that hinders the economic growth and development of communities and nations across Africa.