Campus: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Class of 2010
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
Honors: 2009-2010 Hoffman Health Disparities Fellow
Visions of life at home inspire doctoral student
Blessing Musiiwa Wazara, an epidemiology doctoral student, was born the same year his home country gained independence and changed its name from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. For Blessing, his nation’s independence provided a unique upbringing immersed in Western values and competing indigenous ideals of prominence.
“This unique experience has enabled many of us belonging to a new generation of Africans, who are acculturated to western thinking to begin to assert and articulate the will and hope of our fellow citizens in terms of ending poverty, epidemics and political upheaval in our continent.”
Having grown up in Zimbabwe, Blessing has seen infectious disease epidemics flourish, and has watched one of Africa’s once most prosperous economies and a sophisticated health-care system deteriorate rapidly. Currently, outbreaks of the easily treatable disease cholera claim the lives of thousands of innocent victims; yet it remains unchecked by a tottering public health infrastructure, says Blessing.
“It is rather absurd to think that more than 4000 people could die from cholera in the 21st century,” he states. “From these unbearably squalid conditions besetting Zimbabwe in particular and the rest of our continent at large I have derived my inspiration to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.”
With his degree, Blessing envisions playing an intermediary role between research institutions and communities to combat diseases in developing countries. His goal is to develop and implement an Integrated Electronic Disease Surveillance System, in which access to the various data databases will be availed to entities such as WHO and CDC in order to expedite the response to epidemics and perhaps preventing them where possible, he says.
“The vision would be to essentially create inroads into areas and populations that are notoriously difficult to study or data is sparse on, and thereby creating a platform to collaborate with agencies such as the WHO and CDC in order to harmonize any epidemic intervention strategy with real time data derived from the field.”
Blessing is steadily reaching his goal. Through his education at CSPH he has been able to do syndromic surveillance work in preparation for the 2008 Democratic National Convention and work in the Office of Health Disparities at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as part of his practicum.
Currently, he works as an Emerging Infections Program Surveillance Officer at CDPHE and refining his skills in disease surveillance databases and reporting systems—skills he hopes to utilize when developing his own surveillance system in Africa.
“I acknowledge that there will be innumerable challenges of an immense magnitude involving this ambitious attempt to implement such a project in Africa, but the benefits that such a venture would confer on researchers and communities alike would be of an unprecedented proportion,” he explains.
Though Blessing admits he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he came to CSPH, he values the relationships he has developed. He says, “The assistance provided by faculty has been second to none. There are several members of faculty whose keen interest in my development as a scholar and researcher has paid dividends in my progress through the program.”
“You are guaranteed of getting a well rounded education, robust in curriculum and research, at the Colorado School of Public Health,” he adds.