Podcasts: Meet Our Researchers

Pratap Kumar

Pratap Kumar works at the Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, and has a strong interest in Global Health. He uses health technology and entrepreneurship to support frontline health care workers in doing a better job, and even through remote support where patients present complicated cases.

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust research programme

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme is a major Wellcome Trust’s overseas programmes. Its work has had a major influence on national and international health policy. Research spans a wide variety of topics and disciplines including research on malaria and bacterial and viral infectious diseases, work to map disease risk and intervention coverage and work on research ethics and health systems strengthening.

Pratap Kumar: Supporting frontline healthcare workers

My name is Pratap, I am a scientist at Strathmore University Business School in Nairobi, Kenya, and I work mainly in Global Health.

I studied medicine to start with, a long time ago in India; I decided to become a neuroscientist, and spent about 10 years of my life as a neuroscientist. I then became a global health economist, and now find myself in Kenya studying interesting problems in global health; it involves a mix of health, technology and entrepreneurship, which really is an interesting place to be. I study how we can support frontline health care workers in doing a better job. Sometimes it involves documentation of care, tools and approaches to improve the care that they give to every case they see. And sometimes it means giving remote support, harnessing a global pool of skills to support these clinicians in the field about complicated cases. They might see a case, say epilepsy and they don’t know much about it, but they don’t want to refer a patient 200 kilometres away, so they can get support to handle that case, right where they are.

The questions are how do we do this better? What kind of networks do we use? What kind of tools and technology do we use, to make the job of these frontline health care providers easier and more effective? Why do research? I see research as problem solving: if you want to solve complex problems, you need to understand these problems a bit more, and that’s the role of research. In my work, I try to bridge the idea of understanding the problem and trying to create solutions. That idea of trying to come up with a solution brings up all sorts of different fields. We need to think about problems around entrepreneurship, commercialisation and policy. We need to think about human resources and what kind of resources there are, what training needs to be given. And we need to think about technology – understanding what technology can do and what it can’t do. These are all really interesting problems that need to be understood before we can create effective solutions.

The real reason to do research is to get more interesting and more effective solutions. Without research you can’t come up with these solutions. A message to everyone is that research is really exciting, and it’s fun because you are grappling with complex problems, like sitting with a very complicated puzzle and trying to solve it. It really is engaging a number of sides of you as a human being: a scientist, a consumer, a patient and a doctor. It brings in a number of different aspects together to solve these problems, and that’s the exciting thing about research.