MITS Training Center Opening

This fall, a MITS training center will open its doors at the University of Nairobi School of Medicine -- Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). The center will be a hub for pathologists and pathology technicians to learn the latest techniques and best practices on the MITS procedure, dramatically expanding the accessibility and availability of MITS training in Africa and beyond. To help launch the center, the MITS Surveillance Alliance Secretariat recently conducted a MITS Training of Trainers Workshop for KNH staff in collaboration with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Discussion about the new MITS Center

Interview with Dr. Edwin Walong

He provides leadership in clinical and forensic autopsy practice at KNH and is also the center’s lead trainer. He talked to us about the future of MITS and his hopes for the new training center.

When did you first start using MITS in your work?

I first started working with MTS in 2013 when my team and I used the technique to investigate causes of pneumonia-related deaths in children. We looked at how MITS compared to conventional autopsies when identifying these types of deaths. Since then, our work has evolved and we are studying other aspects of MITS, like how MITS identifies cause of death among newborns. We also want to apply MITS in more complex scenarios that are analytic in nature. For example, we can potentially use MITS to identify the tissues in which HIV actively replicates, which would be an important step towards the development of a cure.

Why is this new training center at KNH important?

In many developing countries, pathology is a low priority for funding and investment, pathologists are few, and pathology infrastructure is stretched. But MITS can make the work of pathologists easier, freeing up their time to do more diagnostic work. We can also train non-pathologists to use the technique in areas where pathology is not available. I hope those who come to the training center will gain the knowledge base needed to implement MITS in their own country. We want them to learn technical skills, but also interpret those skills to their own healthcare challenges. KNH, as a hospital, should provide an environment similar to the ones where they work. Hopefully, trainees will go back to their countries and be MITS trainers in their own right. Here at KNH, our staff are now trained to train others. They feel like they can provide leadership in this area, which is a benefit to their own professional experience and also a benefit to Kenya given what they can provide in terms of disease surveillance in a local context.

What are the plans for the center?

We’re planning for three initial batches of trainees this Fall, who will all come for a one-week session. They will be from many countries, including Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Argentina. After that, we intend to provide training for local individuals who plan to use MITS for their research. Eventually, we also want to include MITS in courses for students in laboratory sciences/pathology and we intend to develop laboratory support for MITS within the region.

Do you think MITS has the potential to improve health systems around the world?

A good cause-of-death investigation has the potential for change that yet has not been properly realized in many countries. MITS comes in to plug a lot of these gaps. In the short-term, MITS should be a widely used tool to investigate causes of death in natural mortality. In the long-term, countries should have strong national disease surveillance systems with MITS at its core. I hope that we will see an expansion of MITS in low- and middle-income countries and that KNH would be a hub that can support these activities within the continent and globally.