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In the words of Tony Robins, “the only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” My journey to the ARISE secondment is indeed a giant step into my career and community development dream.

I am Evelyn Nwadiuto Chukwudi. I enrolled for the ARISE work package 3, which is aimed at improving the quality and capacity of laboratory diagnostic testing services for population screening in SCD with both a comprehensive education programme and the set-up of a quality assurance system.

My secondment at the Escola de Superior Tecnologia de Saude de Lisboa- Instituto Politecnico de Lisboa (Estesl-IPL), Lisbon, Portugal is one experience I would love to relive over and over. It was one full of excitement and great expectations of, firstly, getting to learn new technology, particularly in newborn SCD diagnostics as well as improving on my previous knowledge. And secondly, it granted me the opportunity of meeting with Professor Miguel Brito, the Principal researcher at Estesl-IPL and his research team, particularly, Catirina and Carolina. They were simply amazing. Before the secondment, I had my doubts about getting along in the language, but this team dispelled all my fears.

The first few days of my secondment were dedicated to compulsory online certification courses on Good Clinical Practice (GCP), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), Basic Molecular Biology, Nucleic Acid Extraction, PCR and Realtime PCR modules from the Clinical Trial Network, National Institute of Health, and the Centre for Disease Control, respectively. It was indeed a tough but rewarding drill. Thanks to the management of Estesl-IPL.

One event that stood out for me was the PerkinElmer training on Migele IEF unit conducted by Annina Lehto. The 3-day training included both classroom and laboratory sessions, and covered installation and use of the Migele Hb unit, Resolve Hb Neo kit, JB-2 staining system procedures and interpretation of IEF Haemoglobin bands.

There was also Fred Meindl who joined the training, providing expert knowledge on haemoglobinopathies and IEF results. It was such an extensive training with lots of cookies and chocolates to enjoy!

Notable achievements so far include:

  • Certification on the Migele IEF unit training by PerkinElmer.
  • Certification on GCP by the Clinical Trial Network, NIH.
  • Certification on GLP by the CDC.
  • Certification on Molecular Biology (Basic Science) by CDC.
  • Certification on Nucleic Acid Extraction by CDC.
  • Certification on PCR and qPCR by CDC.
  • Participation in genetic research work.

In fact, I am happy that my expectation of gaining knowledge about the use of the IEF platform is met, and I will be more delighted to step down same as I return to my health facility and the state, to ensure that the newborn SCD screening kicks off in line with the ARISE project.

I will not fail to mention here that, beyond work and training, we had opportunity of exploring Portugal – from Vasco Da Gama tower and plaza to River Teju, to the Atlantic Ocean, the Cascais Beach, Belem tower, Colombo Plaza, and then the very colourful Portugal Day celebration at Rossio, to mention but a few. The summer season was just apt for the awesome experience. All thanks to the underground Metro and the train transport system that eased everything and made it an “adventurous outing”.

The secondment period is gradually coming to an end. Days have become weeks, and these in turn have grown to months. Family is hopeful that we reunite. It is quite difficult parting at this time when Lisbon is like a second home, with new friends whom we have shared fun moments and work together. I will sure miss those Pastel de Nata and coffee breaks!

I will remain ever grateful to ARISE for this life-time opportunity granted me for self- and career-development. To all the members of the ARISE management Team, and to Niger state government, I say thank you and God bless you all.