Students@SPM 2023: Internship Experience at the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative (DNDi) – South East Asia Office

My internship at the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative (DNDi) South East Asia Office was a valuable and rewarding experience. DNDi is a non-profit research and development organization focused on developing new treatments for neglected diseases. DNDi works in collaboration with partners to develop affordable and accessible treatments for people living with neglected diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

My main objective during the internship was to gain practical experience in the field of neglected disease research and development, particularly in the context of South East Asia. I also aimed to improve my communication and project management skills by working with a diverse team of professionals.

The first activity during my internship was by participated in the Hepatitis C Advocacy Alliance Training aimed at NGOs and healthcare workers supporting key populations affected by Hepatitis C in Malaysia. The training aimed to identify the local demand for HCV treatment, barriers and solutions for commodities supply chains, service delivery, access to care, funding mechanisms, and policy. I get the opportunity to interact with participants from various NGOs and was impressed by their dedication and passion.

I learned the importance of engaging affected communities and listening to their perspectives. There were also discussions led by experts covering global and local demand for HCV treatment, barriers to access, and solutions to overcome them. The training provided an opportunity for me to learn about the challenges and opportunities in providing HCV treatment to key populations in South East Asia and the importance of working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure access to treatment.

Group photo with the participants and trainer

Next, I was involved in conducting a literature scoping exercise to improve Hepatitis C screening and treatment in Bangladesh. The activity aimed to identify the target population and locations for intervention based on disease density and targeted communities. Through this exercise, I learned the importance of strategic planning for public health screening and intervention in resource-limited settings.

I gained insights into the healthcare system in Bangladesh and the specific needs of the population. This experience provided me with an opportunity to apply my research skills to address real-world health challenges and gain experience in working with stakeholders to prioritize resources and implement targeted interventions. The literature scoping exercise highlights the importance of evidence-based decision-making and strategic planning in improving public health interventions, especially in resource-limited settings.

After that, I assist DNDi to review, summarize, and translate the WHO Updated Recommendations on Simplified Service Delivery for Hepatitis C Infection into Bahasa Melayu. The goal was to create readable posters that could be shared among healthcare workers in the Ministry of Health in Malaysia. Through this experience, I realized the importance of providing updated recommendations to healthcare workers to improve service delivery and treatment for Hepatitis C. Translating the documents into a readable format was also crucial in ensuring that healthcare workers could easily access and understand the information. This activity provided me with an opportunity to develop my language skills and gain experience in translating technical documents into readable materials. It also gave me insight into the challenges faced in providing healthcare services in different languages and the importance of making information accessible to everyone. This experience helped me understand the significance of updated recommendations in healthcare and the importance of clear communication to improve service delivery and treatment.

Poster of WHO Updated Recommendations on Simplified Service Delivery for Hepatitis C Infection in Bahasa Melayu

The Malaysian Women in Science event that I supported was a great opportunity for me to contribute to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of DNDi while also helping to organize an important event. I was involved in various tasks, including writing the biographies of the 10 top women in Malaysia who were invited to the event, as well as strategizing the event plan and preparing the slides and posters. One of the most inspiring aspects of the event was hearing about the struggles these women faced in their careers and personal lives. They shared their experiences of balancing work, family, and social lives, which was incredibly valuable to hear.

This event has helped me in my personal development as I gained insights into the challenges women face in the science and health fields and how they overcome them. I also learned valuable skills in event planning and organization, which will be useful in my future endeavours.

Women in Science Event with Top Malaysian Women Lead in Science and Technology

My last project at DNDi was to assist the production of the Hepatitis C fact sheet, my primary responsibility was to ensure that all information presented was accurate, concise and informative. To achieve this, I collaborated with all DNDi staff to gather all relevant information on their advocacy work done between 2017 and 2023. It took us about three weeks to compile all the data and present it in a readable format. The fact sheet was well received, and Dr Luis, the Executive Director of DNDi, presented it during his public lecture at NIH Malaysia.

The fact sheet was also shared with all NIH staff to serve as a reference document. Being able to take the lead in this project was an exciting opportunity for me, and I am glad that my work was beneficial to others. The fact sheet not only highlighted DNDi’s advocacy work on hepatitis C in Malaysia, but it also served as advocacy work to spread awareness about the current updates on the hepatitis journey in Malaysia.

Factsheet of Hepatitis C highlights in Malaysia
The factsheet printed and presented by DNDi Executive Director, Dr Luiz Pizarro
Group photo with Datuk Dr Radzi, NIH team and DNDi Staff

Working closely with DNDi staff was an enriching experience for me. I found them to be knowledgeable, passionate, and dedicated to their work. Although I initially found it challenging to keep up with their pace, they were always supportive and encouraging, which helped me understand their work better. I am particularly grateful to my supervisor, Han Yang, for providing me with guidance and support throughout my internship. Han Yang’s leadership, mentorship, and insights have been invaluable in helping me navigate the intricacies of the public health sector. I will always be grateful for the opportunities and lessons that Han Yang has provided me during this internship.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this internship to anyone interested in pursuing a career in public health, especially in neglected disease research and development. This internship provided me with valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of working in this field and gave me a chance to contribute to an important global cause. I am grateful for the experiences and skills I gained through this internship and believe that they will help me in my future endeavours. Thank you, DNDi, for this amazing opportunity.

This internship report was prepared by Nuraini Rudi.

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