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Anita Bitegeko

MSc in Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance and Biotechnology, Technological University Dublin (formerly DIT) (2009)

Anita Bitegeko from Tanzania received a fellowship to study in Ireland for an MSc in Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance and Biotechnology. She completed the course at Technological University Dublin at the end of 2010. Three years on, we asked her about her study experience, memories of Ireland and what came next. 

I completed my primary degree about ten years ago and joined the Tanzania Food and Drug Authority (FDA), first working as a drug inspector, then in the quality control laboratory as a drug analyst. Before applying for further studies, I’d developed an interest in quality assurance for pharmaceuticals manufacturing and biotechnology. I was looking for a course covering these areas and felt that the modules at DIT would cover the gap I had. Also, the course would allow me to research my MSc dissertation in my own country, so I could look at the best way to apply what I had learnt to the situation here.

Looking back to my time in Ireland, I remember the culture – the St. Patrick’s Day march was a new experience; another thing was the Irish dancing – I’ve never seen that kind of dancing. Also, the accents and language are so different. When you talk with a person from Cork, it’s different from a person coming from Dublin. Coping with a new culture had its challenges but I liked it anyway. Honestly, I felt terribly cold throughout the time I spent in Dublin. I’ve never experienced that before. I tried to adjust but really I just had to live with it!

During my studies, I appreciated the advanced technology, especially in relation to pharmaceutical manufacturing and measurement. The technology used in developing countries is obviously different. One thing which I gained and is still very valuable is that I came to understand different international regulations. We can try and combine and incorporate those ideas into our own environment to improve the regulation of pharmaceuticals. When I came back, I presented what I had learnt to my Director General and was promoted to another department where I am now a Senior Drug Registration Officer. We review medicines for market authorisation. In Tanzania, we have a few medicines made locally and many that are imported so we have to register them and ensure their quality, efficacy and safety. We import almost all vaccines and biologicals so we have to evaluate them before releasing them. That’s just what my course was about so I’m enjoying my work, translating what I learnt into the real pharmaceutical world. I need to enrich my knowledge more, though. What I learnt was like a trigger, but technology is changing and to stay competent in this area I cannot stand still. We work as a team looking at how best we can improve our regulatory environment and I’m still sharing ideas that I learnt at DIT. I couldn’t share everything straight away because the technology in Ireland is more advanced; slowly but surely, though, the capacity is going up in Tanzania and I can share more. Also, there is a former Irish Aid fellow in a different department of the Ministry and we sometimes meet up and exchange what we learnt. In my future career, I hope to advance more in this area. The Tanzania FDA is aiming to be the leading African authority in ensuring safety, quality and effectiveness - and I feel myself being a champion for that. I’m confident I have the knowledge and can work harder to improve the evaluation process. I feel blessed for the fellowship - but I’m still ambitious and want to build on what I learnt in that time.