Grace Mlingi, Tanzania

Master in Management of Transfusion Medicine

I liked the fact that the training program could be adjusted to suit my own particular interests.

Master in Management of Transfusion Medicine (MMTM)
The MMTM course is set up in 2001 by the  Academic Institute ‘International Development of Transfusion Medicine’ (IDTM) and embedded in the University of Groningen (RUG), University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation.

Enrich your leadership abilities!
My name is Grace Mlingi and I am originally from Tanzania. I am a former student and graduate of the Master in Management of Transfusion Medicine (MMTM) and I am currently working as head of the laboratory for the National Blood Transfusion Service in Tanzania.  

My journey started in November 2011 when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) offered me sponsorship to pursue further studies. I then applied for and was accepted into the MMTM program.

Getting started
Before I began the MMTM I identified three research topics that suited my particular interests. I then discussed these three topics with my supervisor (who had been assigned to me by the International Development of Transfusion Medicine Institute (IDTM) to help me decide which would best suit my interests and aspirations. Finally only one topic remained;  “A Study to Determine Demand and Supply of Blood; Case Study of Eastern Zone Blood Transfusion Service in Tanzania”. At this point I began taking nine E-learning modules, while parallel to this I started to formulate the research proposal and begin data collection. I really valued the close support of my supervisor throughout and of those at Sanquin. When I felt a little lost their support and encouragement gave me new energy and motivation to carry on. I soon found out that finding a balance between my office duties, my study and maintaining a social life was the biggest challenge and finding that balance was absolutely crucial to the success of my adventure. 

Real time exposure
In January 2013 I completed the nine e-learning modules of the course and had also completed the data collection needed, and so it was time to fly to the Netherlands! I was a little bit apprehensive about ‘moving’ to the Netherlands but luckily the University took care of all of the required documentation including sorting out my resident permit. The secretary of the IDTM also provided me with a train schedule and accommodation arrangements. Once I had arrived I began the orientation period during which they showed me the city, the train station, the supermarkets and of course the campus. This guidance was really useful and also made me feel very welcome!

The training program of IDTM was well organized. I was always given plenty of notice about upcoming events and always knew what to expect and what was expected of me. I liked the fact that the training program could be adjusted to suit my own particular interests. At times I also travelled to the headquarters of Sanquin in Amsterdam. Wherever I went for any official tour and program visit there was always a lot of valuable knowledge exchange and interaction.

In the meantime I was also carrying on with the analysis of my data and the finalization of my thesis. I met my supervisor weekly to discuss how I might improve my research work. During this time I also followed a number of lectures including those on Research Methodology, Ethics and Writing for Research. I also followed a very useful SPSS training course for a two week period. The lectures I took certainly increased my knowledge and my capacities in the analysis and interpretation of my data and hence enhanced my ability to perform independent research. Finally, after a lot of hard work, I managed to finish my studies in July 2013!

Out of work
During my stay in the Netherlands various friends who I had met at the department often invited me to join them outside of work and would show me where they lived and I would be able to meet and spend time with their families. I sincerely loved this aspect of my stay in the Netherlands; meeting new people and learning a new culture. The city itself is also very attractive.  Groningen is bustling and surrounded by water; every day I found it so refreshing living in this environment, with beautiful canals and boats everywhere you look!

Summarized
The Master for Management in Transfusion Medicine certainly met my expectations. It was when I returned to Tanzania and started working in my home country again that I realized that I had gathered truly valuable knowledge and skills during the master program. Now I have a broader view on the solution and improvement of critical issues in the field of management of transfusion medicine. This enables me to critically assess situations and innovatively solve problems. The results of my master thesis also provided me with a strategy for improving blood supply in my home country. I became more conscious of available resources and how to efficiently and effectively manage them, especially in countries similar to Tanzania where resources are limited.

Overall, the course was a very positive and inspiring experience. I learned that if you are committed, focused and, most importantly, like what you are doing, you will do well!  What you achieve in the end is definitely worth the effort. Do not hesitate to apply for MMTM; you will not regret it!

If you would like some more information on my experience or the program please feel free to contact me at gracemlingi@yahoo.com