Collaboration in the fight against infectious diseases
Dr Brahmaputra Marjadi, MPH, PhD in Epidemiology from the University of New South Wales (2009), began his pathway in his field of expertise through a scholarship from AusAID. “As a medical doctor, I had the opportunity to participate in an Indonesia – Australia Specialised Training Project in 1998. It was a short course on HIV/AIDS management and development,” Brahm recalled.
It was during that course that Brahm met his future supervisor who encouraged him to pursue infectious disease control and epidemiology. “Being such a diverse and vast tropical country, Indonesia is especially vulnerable to epidemics,” Brahm explained. “My supervisor, Prof Mary-Louise McLaws, convinced me that by pursuing this field, I would be able to contribute more for Indonesia.”
However, when Brahm went to look into Master of Infection Control program in Australia, he came to realize that the study of healthcare-associated infection control was only available for those with a degree in nursing.
“The next closest field someone with a medical degree can pursue is epidemiology,” Brahm said. Graduating with a Master of Public Health from the University of New South Wales under an Australian Development Scholarship, Brahm returned to Indonesia in 2001.
In 2004, Brahm was again granted an Australian Development Scholarship and returned to his alma mater to pursue a PhD in Epidemiology. “It was an amazing experience of academic collaboration,” Brahm recalled. He had wanted to study ways to adapt and implement relevant infection control policies from Australia and other developed nations to the unique situations in Indonesia, especially in regards to remote areas, his area of concern.
”My supervisor and co-supervisor had experience in China, Malaysia and Africa, but none in Indonesia. They enthusiastically proposed to impart knowledge on the methodologies while I would, in turn, share my expertise in regards to Indonesia – essentially forming an academic collaboration,” Brahm explained.
It is a relationship these experts continue to foster today, co-authoring academic journals and discussing aspects of epidemiology through emails and visits.
Brahm indeed came to contribute tremendously for Indonesia. He and other healthcare professionals worked together with the Government of Indonesia in revising the guidelines for healthcare-associated infection control in the country.
Currently, both larger and smaller hospitals are under the same guidelines, whereas in reality, these hospitals do not share the same conditions. Larger hospitals have better equipment and might handle unique cases; smaller hospitals in remote areas lack resources and generally handle smaller cases.
In 2010, new guidelines were drafted to take this difference into consideration. “We envisage a two-tiered guideline, each for the larger and smaller hospitals,” Brahm said. “It was an amazing contribution from all parties involved – government officials, medical doctors, nurses, experts from so many backgrounds.”
Aside from serving as consultant for the Directorate General of Medical Services, the Indonesian Ministry of Health, Brahm currently also serves as Chairperson of the Surabaya Chapter of the Association of Voluntary Health Services of Indonesia (Persatuan Karya Dharma Kesehatan Indonesia, Perdhaki), one of six faith based voluntary health services in Indonesia working together to serve the community, with which he has been involved with since 1994.
Brahm’s main position is as the Head of the Public Health Department at the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Wijaya Kusuma Surabaya. He also serves as lecturer in epidemiology and research methods at the Faculty of Nursing, Widya Mandala Catholic University, Surabaya, as well as teaching evidence-based medicine and introduction to medical anthropology at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Universitas Surabaya. Brahm is a Visiting Fellow at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, the University of New South Wales, and is currently taking a sabbatical from Surabaya to develop new research networks at UNSW.