Meeting with Dr Abdishakur Abdulle: Read the 3 Advises he shared to an Aspiring Research Scientists!

Short Biography for Dr Abdishakur Abdulle

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle serves as Associate Director of the Public Health Research Center at New York University Abu Dhabi. Dr. Abdulle is a Harvard Global Clinical Scholar in Epidemiology and Clinical Trials and earned his PhD from the University of Central Lancashire, UK. He also holds a Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Management from Australia.

His other job portfolios include but not limited to; serving as Senior Medical Research Specialist for the College of Medicine, UAE University and, he also held the position of Senior Qualified Scientist at the Abu Dhabi Central Hospital, Ministry of Health.

His main research interests include understanding global disparities in the epidemiology and biochemical markers of chronic diseases and obesity. He is also interested in identifying innovative and interdisciplinary strategies in the prevention and intervention of childhood obesity. Dr. Abdulle has published over 100 original manuscripts in peer reviewed international journals and serves as a reviewer for many international journals.

Agenda for the Meeting

  • This is part of talks series by highly esteemed and successful Somali born professionals who are on the top of science and healthcare leadership, so that they will give their wisdom to other junior graduates and mid-career professionals in medical education and research
  • This will be also a venue for exchanging news about the recent trends and updates about healthcare matters in Somalia by the participating members who are almost from every corner of the country, Somalia  

Welcoming to the stage for presentation

Thank you for your attendance and attention, here I would like to share little about my advice to “young scientists and physicians” who are interested in research and academia. I must admit my profound happiness to talking to such young talents – it is indeed inspirational for me as much.

 I am hoping to share with you some words of encouragement and support during this wonderful event.  I would like to mention some useful points of which I think, if persistently practiced, will potentially make a difference through your endeavors in the field of scientific research.

 I also believe your efforts in research may eventually lead to changes that will most likely positively impact on your professional and personal lives, over time. Among other things, this will also allow that you find passion in exercising your dreams about becoming leaders in the world of research. To name but few; these are at least three points I personally consider to be the best and would like to share with you:

1- Devotion:

Having a commitment and dedication to some purpose requires a great love and enthusiasm.

To do well in research, or perhaps even in most of what we do, is also the same. Persistence is a key in achieving your dreams and pursuing your interests in practicing research.

Similarly, research requires selfless attitude to better contribute your time and efforts to the overall advancement of mankind rather than narrow personal interests.

Surely, however, it would seem given that you benefit along the way as well mostly as you would be recognized for your hard work and contribution to scientific literature across the world. Such recognition are often priceless, rewarding, and above all fulfilling.

In my career, although I started from ground zero, it was my persistent efforts and proven record in research that has lead me to many such successful outcomes including employment in my current position at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Today, I am happy to share that I have approximately 100 scholarly articles in peer reviewed international journals and over 8,000 citations whereby other authors referenced my scientific works.

2- Publications:

To become a successful researcher, you need to share and publish your work with the rest of the global scientific community. Understanding the value of scientific publications is important, and though it is often missed, it is the single most important credible evidence of your hard work. 

In Somalis, we must recognize that there are great challenges, but at the same time unmatched opportunities for any scientist. Great challenges, mainly because of the limited research capacity in terms of academic institutions, access to international literature, lack of adequate training, and other research administrative facilities.

On the other hand, there are enormous opportunities as there is no first hand data particularly in medicine and related fields of basic sciences. The need for reliable data has never been greater and thus I trust there would be ample research opportunities for young scientist in the very near future. Relying on estimated data, as is the case in many international reports, will not be sustainable and we need to collaborate across the nation, region, and even globally. 

One of the good outcomes of the past thirty years, for example, is the vast highly qualified Somalians in the diaspora. Though challenging, such resources need to be tapped as they could breach the gap of knowledge and help in furthering the research agenda across the country.

3- Networking    

Lastly, I wish to mention the importance of collaboration. A former professor of mine from Harvard Medical School once told me that “the price of excluding people, is far higher than the price of including people in your research”. I found this wisdom a life-long lesson that has impacted on not only the way I see research, but how I engage with others to create a collaborative multi-disciplinary research work.

 My message to you, is to collaborate and work with others with honest and great deal of transparency. Seek to learn from others, and appreciate them that by itself will take you a long way for many years to come. I think, this might seem bit odd culturally speaking.

In research setting, it is hard to excel and do everything alone.Thus, you need to connect with like-minded friends and build strong collaboration.

Similarly, you need to have a mentor, someone with expertise in the field to share your ideas and benefit from their support and guidance.

Networking is also good when it comes to the core concepts and knowledge we need to master in executing research projects, for example, in a single study there could be an involvement or need to participate more people with different educational backgrounds as a multi-disciplinary team, a statistician, IT technician, lawyer, scientist and many more, so that you need to realize and appreciate contributions that other people can make in your attempt to produce a sound and effective paper!

These are my three advises to you, and I hope you would find them useful. With that, I thank organizer Dr. Mohamed for the invitation and for your time to attend and I am happy to take questions. 

Q & A session

Dr. Abdulkadir Mohamed Hassan:

My question is that, how can we create a peer-review group, a people who are experts in research in whom we can share our work in order to read and give us back their suggestions for improvement prior to submitting?  

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD:

To my understanding, this is for establishing a network of highly qualified people around you, so that you will share your work and consult with them whenever seems necessary. You can also do this within your classmates or those who had acquired similar knowledge and trained in the field of research, so they can help you in the development, sharing ideas, referencing and conclusions.

For me I am available to help in any way possible. Please feel free to contact me. Supporting young scientist is an obligation rather for any scholar and I hope I would be able to help. You have my E-mail ID, telephone and even ready to continue these sessions anytime.     

Ali Mohamed Ali:

There are a lot of diseases in which we need to study, some are specifically found or abundant in Somalia, so my question is where we can begin in researching?

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD:

A key component of research endeavors in achievability; having access to subjects or material that you need to answer your research question. For example, if you working in a hospital and could reach out to the community, you know that you could achieve your data collection.

Once you know that you could achieve your goal, then comes the questions writing your proposal, obtaining ethical approval, and seeking funding etc. Think along those lines and try to come up with a research question.

Abdirizak Mohamud Yusuf: 

I have produced or took part almost 3 articles published in different journals, there was always one area we had encountered difficult in dealing with, and that is analysis of data, what can you advice on this matter?   

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD:

My advice about doing an effective research which yields positive response from the industry leaders and the publishing agents is that you need to master the research skills first, so that you will find any part of your work smoothly running and on the right track, to name a few of those essential research skills and competencies are:

a) Statistics: You don’t need to excel in statistics but at least you need to have a basic understanding in statistics and calculations, so that you can easily analyse and interpret your data, and make adequate conclusions.

b) Research Tools and Software: There are a lot of software applications in which we use for capturing data, processing of your data, and graphical presentations, these include R which is an open source software package and environment for statistical computing and graphics, the SPSS (Statistical package for the social sciences) which is the set of software programs that are combined together in a single package.

The basic application of this program is to analyze scientific data related with the social science and Microsoft Excel. So that you should have some degree of knowledge and experiences about how these software work!

c) Good English Command: Many of the available literature are written in an English language. Thus, you need to enhance your ability in critical reading and writing in English. That will enable you to better communicate with the rest of the scientific world and publish your findings

Dr Aydarus Ali Ahmed:

Exercising research projects was long missing is the higher studies institutions and universities in Somalia, I graduated one of the premier medical schools in Somalia, then interested pursuing higher degree, Master of Public Health from Walden University (USA), one of the biggest challenges in securing entrance was that the admission team insisted to share researches done at my university, and found nothing to show them, my question is that, how or what can we do to change this situation and persuade our universities try to establish research center?

  Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD:

I know that feeling. You see prior to the collapse of central government of Somalia, in 1991, there were almost 492 healthcare facilities across the country including 5 tertiary hospitals, and many more specialized hospitals and research centers. After the war, most of these facilities were either completely destroyed or taken over and used for other purposes. I think that, the problems faced in the research and development are not so different from the great loses we have experienced in every sector.

One must acknowledge the enormous efforts by individuals and organizations who have established several institutions despite all odds. It will take time, but we have to start some where, and I am confident that great efforts are being made in both public and private sectors.

Look at what you have just said, despite challenges, you managed to join a well known University in the US. Look at this meeting and those who initiated it, you guys are a living example of excellence and I truly admire your level of determination. 

To summarize, you found solution to your tertiary education  admission after continuous struggle, that is what they call ‘persistence’ if there is a will; there is a way, similarly, you, me and we as a team can make a greater difference if we face the situation intelligently.             

Fadumo Abdirizak Ahmed:

What points can you share with us for your journey to success or other words what makes you successful in the research specialization?

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD:

This is not an easy question, but I am happy to share with you my views.

a) Firstly you should trust ALLAH, there is a versus in the Quran which goes like this “And that man shall have nothing, but what he strives for”. You need to have faith in God, work hard, and believe in your God given abilities. With this, I think nothing could stop you to accomplish whatever you wishes to achieve.

b) Secondly, during my childhood, I have had a great admiration for my father who was a successful judge, a lawyer, a religious scholar, and a business man. from my early ages, I grew up in an environment where reading and intellect of knowledge mattered. As you would imagine, I have often observed my father in his quest to read volumes of different books just to find one strong evidence and proof a point in court. This have had enormous impact on my career as a scientist, thus I think you would need a role model.         

c) Lastly, I had a focus, according to Collin’s English Dictionary, “If you focus on a particular topic or if your attention is focused on it, you concentrate on it and think about it, discuss it, or deal with it, rather than dealing with other topics.

My decision to pursue scientific research was all about trying to find where I could make to the betterment of humanity.

Mohamed Yassin Dualeh:

Can we start a competitive research grants or awards for which we can ask junior and mid-career researchers submit their applications where this would encourage many applicants try to do researches, do you think that we can secure such funds from the donor agencies?

Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, PhD: 

I can say no at this time, before applying these external funds you should have some other prerequisites for applying such grants. These are useful & integral part of any research project and funding opportunities in any country level, no one can manage to do grants applications if they don’t have these structures in place before engaging to any donor agents, these are the following ones:  

Country coordinating mechanism: Country Coordinating Mechanisms are national committees representing of all sectors involved in the research that submit funding applications to the donors or funding agencies and oversee grants on behalf of their countries. 

Ethical committee: This committee evaluates the ethical acceptability of research before participants can be enrolled in a study. In addition, the Ethical committee will examine certain related financial and scientific aspects.

Trusted funding administrator: These are credible and strong organizations, usually a research institution, an NGO or other entity that have good reputation and tacking excellent record in managing those funds received to carry out or implement those research projects as per the guidelines of the funder.

Lastly, I assure you that the funds to those causes are available, there are millions of dollars available to support scientific research in under developed nations, but we need to set up the research infrastructure first.

 I suggest an Online Conference which can be a substitute, at the present time at least everyone has an opportunity to meet others via teleconferencing tools, and we can connect with local resource people, officials from different administration bodies or regional authorities, representatives from academic institutions, and any other interested participants, so that we can discuss the way forward in establishing well- organized scientific and research community in Somalia!

Meeting attendees

1) Dr. Aiydarus Ali Ahmed 

2) Hamse Aden Haybe

3) Fadumo Abdirisaq Ahmed

4) Dr. Fadumo Muhyadin Abdulle

5) Dr. Liban Hussein Idow

6) Abdirizak Mohamud Yusuf

7) Ali Mohamed Ali

8) Amal Ahmed Mohamed

9) Abdihamid Mohamed Hassan

10) Asma Hussein Abdulle

11) Dr. Abdulkadir Mohamed Hassan

12) Fowzia Mohamed Hussein

13) Dr Osman Muhyadin Abdulle

14) Jamal Mohamed Warsame

15) Mohamed Ahmed Hassan (Arab)

16) Asma Ahmed Mohamed

17) Mubarak Abdillahi Yusuf 

18) Mohamed Yassin Dualeh

The End

Compiled by: Dr. Mohamed Y. Dualeh