GoLBet Data Manager - Meserat Molla
& The GoLBet Team
Undertaking an RCT of Podoconiosis in Northern Ethiopia
My name is Meseret Molla Kassahun. I was born in a very remote rural part of Ethiopia, far from the capital. I secured a BSc degree in applied statistics and a MSc in Economics at Addis Ababa University. I will secure my PhD at the end of July this academic year.
I have worked for the University of Gondar as a Lecturer in statistics and economics, for local and international collaborators as a senior survey statistician and as a data analyst for large surveys including the Ethiopian National Health Account (ENHA) survey and the Community Based Health Insurance (CBHI) survey. I have also served as data manager for many research projects.
Right now, I work on an amazing pragmatic trial which has given me a lot of scientific experience. It is called ‘GoLBet’ and is a RCT of podoconiosis lymphoedema treatment in northern Ethiopia. I’ve been working on it as trial data manager over the last three years, and this has shifted my long term research vision to concentrate on trial-related research in human health and development. This is exciting since there is scope to improve the health of Ethiopian citizens, generate evidence based results and disseminate these to the scientific community, planners and policy makers.
Achieving data of a standard fit for a RCT and performing the responsibilities of a data manager for a pragmatic trial like ours was a very difficult task. The rural field was full of ups and downs; challenges related to infrastructure, geography, administration & logistics. The other side of this coin is that the trial is very satisfying and rewarding and helps me develop into an independent trial data manager and researcher for the future. The other very rewarding thing was seeing the faces of the patients during data collection. Their happiness at becoming free of acute attacks due to the trial intervention was a remarkable encouragement for me, and I sensed the potential benefit for millions of patients across the world.
This trial helped me learn about the rural community, because only by doing this could I ensure that the quality of the data was high. Having an excellent social relationship between the patients and the trial team, in which the norms, culture, and ethics of the community were respected, was vital to data collection and its quality. As an example of this, the data collection team I lead has so far achieved zero dropouts from the control group (who are followed every three months for a year). The team has also worked towards zero missing data.
I’ve learned that in addition to implementing standard scientific procedures like staff training to increase the data quality of a pragmatic trial like ours, it is vitally important to develop a good relationship with the community and respondents. In this way, the highest quality trial data can be gathered –not just in Ethiopia, but in any low-resource setting.