Profile with Mukoma Kalumba

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Mukoma Kalumba (Zambia & Linacre 2012) was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford in 2012, and is currently studying for a Masters degree in Global Health. She was awarded the Shelys Pharmaceuticals Best Overall Graduating Pharmacy Student Award on completion of her undergraduate degree, and previously practised as a District Pharmacist in the Isoka District Health Office. Mukoma holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the University of Zambia.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Mukoma Kalumba: Since coming to Oxford I’ve realised that I really enjoy having family around, and I haven’t had the chance to go home in the past year, so home is Lusaka, Zambia where my family, friends and extended family live.

Rhodes Project: What is the last book you read for pleasure?

Mukoma Kalumba: The last book I read (although I haven’t finished it) was Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin.

Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever had?

Mukoma Kalumba: My first job was as a sales assistant in a hair extension shop.  It was owned by a Korean family who had come to invest in Zambia, and I had just completed high school so I went to work with them.  I worked from 8am to 5pm every day - it was interesting but tiring!  I enjoyed that experience.

Rhodes Project: When did you first become passionate about global Health Science?

Mukoma Kalumba: Actually I haven’t always been passionate about public health.  My interest had always been in medicine - I wanted to delve into a medical career and become a medical doctor but things didn’t work out in that way.  When I got the Rhodes Scholarship, I was researching what I would study at Oxford, and at first I didn’t consider public health, but as soon as I started studying Global Health which encompasses public health I found it to be a really broad subject - it gives you an idea of how health can fit in with so many other sciences, and so many other aspects of life.  That really intrigued me, and generated a new interest in Global Health as I began to see how it would fit in with economics, developmental studies, mathematics, statistics – I enjoyed the way it all came together.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me a little bit about your research?

Mukoma Kalumba: My current research is looking at the conduct of clinical trials in developing countries, and why so few are conducted in comparison to developed countries.  Only about 10% of global research is carried out in developing countries.  I’ve been looking at data collected from research records in developing countries --  the responses to the experience of working on clinical trials, and what the interviewees feel are the challenges and the barriers they have encountered -- in order to develop a picture of why this is so.

Rhodes Project: What’s the most challenging part of your research?

Mukoma Kalumba: Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the questionnaire data I was using was collected from skill sharing and building workshops conducted in developing countries.  The questionnaires were not really designed to collect the data I was looking for – although they did cover barriers and challenges of clinical trials, they didn’t really focus on this subject, so most of the responses I looked at were quite shallow.   I have had to try to figure out what the participants were trying to say in their answers, and that has been a real challenge.

Rhodes Project: What’s the most rewarding part of your research?

Mukoma Kalumba: I’ve most enjoyed learning how to use qualitative data analysis software, and also just learning about the process of qualitative research.  That aspect was covered on my course, though not in depth, and so learning how to use this software brought a new aspect to my research.

I have also been working with the Global Health Trials group, and they have given me so much help and support -- not only in developing my research, but also in helping me settle into life in England.  That has been really wonderful, and has been one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of it all.

Rhodes Project: What do you plan to do in the next few years?

Mukoma Kalumba: In the coming year I have plans to go onto study another Masters degree – I want to explore research for one more year.  I wasn’t really interested in research to begin with, but having had the opportunity to work on a research project I’m interested in exploring it further, and I hope that this experience will help to guide me on my career path whether as a researcher or going back to focus on pharmacology.  It all hinges on my experience of getting involved in more research.

Rhodes Project: What do you like to do outside of work?

Mukoma Kalumba: I really enjoy visiting and spending time with my friends, perhaps going out to watch a movie or just socializing.  Sometimes I like to just stay at home and either watch a movie or read a good book.  I enjoy having that quiet, reflective time on my own.

Rhodes Project: If you could have lunch with one famous female figure, who would it be?

Mukoma Kalumba: It would have to be Joyce Meyer – she’s a Christian author and preacher.  She really inspires me through her talks and her life experiences.  I’ve read one of her books and found her to be very relatable, so I would really grab the opportunity to have lunch with her.

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