by Siyabonga Gema – HST Communications Officer
Nqobile Myende's journey at Health Systems Trust (HST) is nothing short of inspirational; from humble beginnings as an Intern in 2019, to notable career achievements. Now HST's Research Assistant: Research Implementation Science, Nqobile says that she is a naturally very inquisitive person and enjoys burying herself in research papers every chance she gets; the perfect space for someone in Research. HST's Communications Officer recently interviewed Nqobile to get to know her better.
Please give a brief overview of your educational and professional background.
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Public Health, obtained at Monash University in 2017. I will be enrolling for a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health in 2024 and, thereafter, I will tackle my Masters in Public Health. Health Systems Trust gave me a chance as an intern in 2019, straight out of the retail industry, which I had been working in for two years without any success in finding employment in my field. I then began my career in Public Health at HST.
How long have you been with HST and what does your role entail?
I went from being an intern, to Junior Research Assistant and I am now a Research Assistant. I have been employed at HST for four years. As a Research Assistant, I am part of the Research and Implementation Sciences Unit; I support the Researchers and Senior Researchers in data collection tool creation, data collection, data analysing (qualitative data), report writing and I ensure that all projects are in order whenever tasks are delegated to me. I hope to continue my work here and gain experience in this very valuable field.
What interested you about research?
When I was at university I used to read so many research papers, I became fascinated with the information and the knowledge that I gained from them. These days I read research papers on absolutely EVERYTHING for fun. I am naturally a very inquisitive person, so research was the best fit for me.
Who/what has influenced you the most in your career?
Nandipha Jacobs was my very first manager at HST and she taught me everything I needed to know about Research. She agreed to take someone who had never worked on a project a day in her life, and was patient with me and saw my potential. Although she no longer works at HST, I will never forget all the gems she taught me.
HST gave me a chance when every other company or organisation wanted four to five years' experience. I had just gotten out of university; it was impossible to have that much experience at the time; and HST gave me a chance to prove myself and show that this is the right field for me. I am eternally grateful and I hope I never let HST down.
Why do you think ethics are important in the research field?
They protect the rights of our participants. Our participants are who give us information/data when it comes to our job and they deserve the utmost respect and to be protected in the process of us collecting data from them. I am very grateful for ethics committees that force us to keep our standards high. A lot of harm has been done to study participants in the past and now we have rules and regulations in order to avoid that. We care for our participants as HST and I am proud to be a part of that.
Share any recent improvements in data collection methods and how these have changed the research landscape.
My favourite improvement is the ability to create data collection tools using technology and to also be able to collect data using technology. I am able to create a questionnaire using Survey Monkey and collect the data using the same application. It's amazing! Paper-based data collection is still very heavily used, however tech makes it so simple and makes storage easy. Printing papers for data collection is killing our trees!
Do you have any notable work accomplishments at HST (or anywhere else)? if yes, please share.
I appeared in the Indicators chapter of the latest South African Health Review as a co-author. I was so proud, especially because writing isn't my strong point. I got a chance to shine with my wonderful colleagues. Thank you to Noluthando Ndlovu (Senior Researcher – RIS) for giving me that chance. I wouldn't have done it without her.
How do you spend your time away from work?
I spend my time away from work playing with my dogs, I have two babies (the dogs) and they make me so happy. I also spend time with my family members and friends, I exercise five days a week at 04:00am (great start to my day) and I also meditate. I am a big art and nature lover.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"If you can't beat fear, just do it scared." I struggle with anxiety and I wouldn't have gotten so far in my career if I let it take over. Whenever I feel like I can't beat the fears within me, I do whatever I have to do scared, and it always works out for the best. God holds my hand through it and I get what I have to do, done!
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