They’re considered among the world’s pre-eminent experts on malaria and Ebola viruses and are world travelers and models in their own right.
But two of Africa’s leading public health specialists are leaving for the United States: David Bebber and Paul Kamwi, who are both senior scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They want to be more globally relevant, both have said, but are leaving because they didn’t get the chance to run the CDC, the world’s largest public health agency.
“It’s a reward, not a loss,” Kamwi told the daily newspaper Uganda Today. “Covid people should not be discouraged from working and practicing their skills in countries and places that need it most.”
The two men told the UK Guardian they want to teach at the best universities and to help create a new science that is always more rapidly and effectively responding to emergency situations. Both have already started at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive of the World Health Organization, has told the Huffington Post Africa that he is sorry to see them go, “but that’s why we have those things called scientists.”
But there are worrying signs in other African nations that their scientists are not going to be able to fill the void. It’s not just the quality of academics who are leaving. No fewer than 17 of them have turned down the invitation to attend a conference on Ebola at that country’s University of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
That was announced on Facebook by Dr. Ali Juba, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kinshasa. He says most of the delegates will be headed back to the United States.
“It is a bitter-sweet story, for those who are participating, but, importantly, those who had to stay home are being allowed to participate,” Juba wrote.