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2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund. In honor of this milestone, IIE-SRF celebrated the 500 remarkable scholars from 50 countries who had the distinction of being awarded IIE-SRF fellowships. To raise awareness of the urgent needs of persecuted academics around the world, and the importance of responding in kind, IIE-SRF featured 10 scholars representing the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund's 10 years of service. News on special anniversary events and publications are also posted.
Paul Ndebele is a Zimbabwean scholar of psychology with a research focus on Bioethics, recently appointed by the Henry Jackson Foundation in Bethesda, Maryland as a Bioethicist Contractor. Until January 2012, he served as Assistant Director for Research Ethics at the University of Botswana where, alongside his ongoing studies of human research ethics, he coordinated the activities of the university’s ethics committees and oversight more broadly. While at the University of Botswana, he maintained a connection with his SRF fellowship host, the University of Malawi, as an Honorary Lecturer at their College of Medicine. He has an impressive publication record, serves as an Editorial Board member for various journals, and was a member of the National Research Ethics Committee (HRDC) based at the Botswana Ministry of Health.
Dr. Ndebele’s remarkable career began in Zimbabwe, where he was a researcher and liaison officer with the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe (MRCZ), the principal monitoring agency for all medical and clinical trials in the country. In 2001, he participated in the Johns Hopkins University Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program (FABTP), where he was involved in improving the functioning of the MRCZ Institutional Review Board (IRB), and provided lectures and seminars on research ethics for IRB members, and offered training on research practices to other Zimbabwean community members. His connection with Fogarty colleagues remained strong, and he has worked extensively with them in the past years.
After 2002, the deteriorating political and economic environment in Zimbabwe made it impossible for Dr. Ndebele to perform his work effectively. He was able finally to leave the country in 2003 with the help of an SRF fellowship, which allowed him to continue his research in a safe and conducive environment. SRF’s partnership with the South African Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI) made it possible for him to take up a position as a fellow in the bioethics program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
His work on his first SRF fellowship led to a fixed-term position as a Deputy Director and an Assistant Visiting Professor of the Fogarty International Research Ethics Program, which was jointly run by the Centre for Bioethics in Eastern and Southern Africa (CEBESA) at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine and the Center for Ethics in the Humanities and Life Sciences at Michigan State University. While at the University of Malawi, Dr. Ndebele taught bioethics and research ethics in addition to conducting research, supervising Fogarty bioethics fellows, and providing training and support to CEBESA. In 2007, he was appointed coordinator of the University’s Master of Public Health Program where he served as honorary lecturer.
Still unable to return safely to Zimbabwe when his position at Malawi came to an end, Dr. Ndebele received renewed support from SRF in 2008 in order to continue his research on participant awareness in microbiocide clinical trials in Africa at the University of Malawi. The research he conducted there ultimately led to the award of a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2011. His Ph.D. thesis is entitled “A study of trial participants’ understanding and attitudes towards randomisation, placebo use and double-blinding; and a pilot intervention in a microbiocide trial in Malawi.” His groundbreaking research has received international acclaim, as his 2010 award of an Erasmus Mundus Bioethics Visiting Scholar position at Padova University in Italy attests.
In correspondence with SRF, Dr. Ndebele expressed his motivation for persevering with the international distinctions he has earned while away from his home country: “so that when I go back to Zimbabwe, I can play an even more meaningful role in conducting research, publishing and teaching.” The Scholar Rescue Fund is especially pleased to be in touch and to keep abreast of his many exceptional accomplishments.