Building the capacity to solve complex health challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa: CARTA’s multidisciplinary PhD training

Sharon Fonn, Omar Egesah, Donald C Cole, Frances E Griffiths, Lenore Manderson, Caroline W Kabiru, Alex Ezeh, Margaret Thorogood, Chimaraoke O Izugbara

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OBJECTIVES: To develop a curriculum (Joint Advanced Seminars [JASs]) that produced PhD fellows who understood that health is an outcome of multiple determinants within complex environments and that approaches from a range of disciplines is required to address health and development within the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA). We sought to attract PhD fellows, supervisors and teaching faculty from a range of disciplines into the program. METHODS: Multidisciplinary teams developed the JAS curriculum. CARTA PhD fellowships were open to academics in consortium member institutions, irrespective of primary discipline, interested in doing a PhD in public and population health. Supervisors and JAS faculty were recruited from CARTA institutions. We use routine JAS evaluation data (closed and open-ended questions) collected from PhD fellows at every JAS, a survey of one CARTA cohort, and an external evaluation of CARTA to assess the impact of the JAS curriculum on learning. RESULTS: We describe our pedagogic approach, arguing its centrality to an appreciation of multiple disciplines, and illustrate how it promotes working in multidisciplinary ways. CARTA has attracted PhD fellows, supervisors and JAS teaching faculty from across a range of disciplines. Evaluations indicate PhD fellows have a greater appreciation of how disciplines other than their own are important to understanding health and its determinants and an appreciation and capacity to employ mixed methods research. CONCLUSIONS: In the short term, we have been effective in promoting an understanding of multidisciplinarity, resulting in fellows using methods from beyond their discipline of origin. This curriculum has international application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-386
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa south of the sahara
  • Capacity building
  • Developing countries
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Research

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