Meet Our Researchers

Melanie Alufandika, Study Physician (MBBS)


Dr-Melanie-Alufandika-2Melanie received her MBBS degree at the University of Malawi College of Medicine. She held an internship at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi on rotations in Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and Pediatrics. Thereafter she served as Medical Officer at the Adult Emergency and Trauma Centre at QECH.

Her undergraduate research project was titled “Are the risk factors for hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes associated with urbanization and affluence?” The study findings were presented at the 2010 College of Medicine Research Dissemination Conference. Melanie also carried out a short clinical audit to assess home-based care in association with Prof. A Muula and wrote the resulting paper, “Community Home-Based Care; potential tool for the promotion of PMTCT and other reproductive health interventions.”

Melanie is currently a Study Physician with Dignitas International, conducting the STAMP study, a study of the impact on mortality of screening HIV-infected medical in-patients acutely admitted to hospital in Southern Africa for tuberculosis using rapid, urine-based diagnostic tests. In the near future, she will begin her studies for an MSc in Clinical Trials.

Fabian Cataldo, Research Scientist (MA, MRes, PhD)


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Dr. Fabian Cataldo is a social anthropologist specializing in questions related to health systems and access to treatment and care in low-income settings. Over the past 15 years he has undertaken extensive fieldwork in Brazil, Belgium, Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.

Fabian received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of London (Goldsmiths College), sponsored by The Wellcome Trust Biomedical Ethics. He also received his Masters of Research and MA in Anthropology from the University of London and studied epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Fabian served as a visiting researcher at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, and he is an honorary research associate with the Research Department of Infection and Population Health at the University College of London, as well as a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. He joined Dignitas International as the organization’s Malawi Research Director in 2010 and currently serves as a Research Scientist. Dr. Cataldo has been awarded several international grant and academic prizes, including the best new writer prize in 2009 by Sociology of Health and Illness.

Fabian’s research interests are rooted in questions around current efforts at global health interventions in the field of HIV/AIDS, including health systems strengthening, community-based interventions, and programs that focus on structural interventions for socio-economically marginalized groups.

Adrienne K. Chan, Medical Advisor (MD, MPH, FRCPC)


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Dr. Adrienne Chan trained in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Toronto, where she served as Chief Medical Resident. She was a Frank Knox Fellow at Harvard University, where she completed a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in International Health.

She served as a technical consultant on the Commission to Investigate the Introduction and Spread of SARS in Toronto, Canada. She also worked at the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, developing policy research on increasing access to PMTCT-plus and early childhood development interventions in resource-limited settings for the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS.

Adrienne has clinical experience in Lesotho and also in Zimbabwe, as a Yale University/Johnson and Johnson Physician Scholar in International Health. In 2007, Adrienne joined Dignitas International as the organization’s HIV Clinic Coordinator in Zomba, Malawi and later became Medical Coordinator until her return to Toronto in 2010.

Adrienne is an Assistant Professor with the Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Toronto, and is cross-appointed to the Division of Global Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Currently, Dr. Chan is a Medical Advisor with Dignitas International. Adrienne’s research interests include HIV care and treatment decentralization, HIV/TB integration in resource limiting settings, and scale-up of initiatives to prevent of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Florence Kasende Chinguwo, Study Coordinator (BA)


florenceFlorence Kasende Chinguwo holds a degree in Public Administration from the University of Malawi Chancellor College. She graduated in 2009. Florence worked with CARE International as a field research scientist. In 2009 she was involved in a social protection policy research, “Leveraging information from the field to lift up the poor.” She worked on an adolescent study funded by the Patsy Collins Trust Fund initiative in 2010, and from 2011 to 2013, she was involved in the study, “Pathways Linking Poverty, Food Insecurity, and HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi.” In these studies, her involvement was in designing research tools, community mobilization, data collection on women’s sexual reproductive health, and HIV issues.

Currently, Florence works with Dignitas International as Senior Study Coordinator for the PURE Study (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Treatment Uptake and Retention). This three-arm cluster randomized control trial will evaluate whether the Option B+ standard of care, with the addition of either clinic or community-based peer support, will improve the likelihood of mothers and families starting and remaining in PMTCT care.

Edson Mwinjiwa, Senior Coordinator (BSc)


Edson-Mwinjiwa-2Edson Mwinjiwa holds a Diploma in Clinical Medicine from the Malawi College of Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Shear World University. Before joining Dignitas International, Edson worked with the Malawi Ministry of Health in Chiladzulu District where he served as Clinical Officer.

Edson first joined Dignitas International as an ART Clinical Officer and then worked as HIV Clinical Coordinator at Zomba Central Hospital. He coordinated the CryptoDex study on the management of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) to improve treatment of KS among HIV patients for a year – a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled phase III trial of adjunctive dexamethasone in HIV-infected adults with cryptococcal meningitis.

During his clinical involvement in operations research, Edson co-authored various publications, including, “Burden, characteristics, management and outcomes of HIV-infected patients with KS in Zomba, Malawi.” He also co-authored the publication, “Reasons to accept or decline uptake of HIV testing and counseling and antiretroviral therapy by TB and TB/HIV co-infected patients at Zomba Central Hospital.”

Edson is now the Senior Coordinator for the TSCQ study which aims to determine whether preventative use of the antimalarial chloroquine is associated with reduced morbidity and mortality among ART patients.

Wongani Nyangulu, Study Physician (MBBS)


Dr-Wongani-Nyangulu-2Wongani Nyangulu received his MBBS from the University of Malawi College of Medicine. He is currently in his final year of his Masters in Public Health program and is working on a dissertation titled, “The Burden and Risk Factors of Cardiac Disease” at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. In this study, he examines the signs of cardiac disease that are prevalent at the hospital and the prevalence of social demographics and other factors of cardiac disease. Wongani served as District Medical Officer for the Malawi Ministry of Health in Mzimba.

Currently, Wongani is the Study Physician for TSCQ with Dignitas International. The study aims to determine whether preventative use of the antimalarial chloroquine is associated with reduced morbidity and mortality among ART patients.

Sumeet Sodhi, Research Scientist (MD, MPH)


SumeetSodhi_HeadShot-e1374073423427Dr. Sumeet Sodhi is a Research Scientist at Dignitas International. She is also a staff physician with the Toronto Western Hospital Family Health Team at the University Health Network and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, where she received her undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. She completed her MD in 1997, family medicine residency in 1999 and low-risk obstetrics fellowship in 2000. As well, she obtained her Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University in 2006.

Sumeet has extensive experience working as a field doctor, program consultant and researcher in global health and resource-poor contexts, primarily in Africa, Asia and Canada’s northern communities. She has been affiliated with Dignitas International since 2006, where she has been instrumental in building operational research capacity in the organization by championing integration of the research and program departments.

Sumeet’s current research interests include evaluating HIV/AIDS and primary care service delivery models in resource-poor settings, developing and evaluating knowledge translation tools to support health care workers in clinical management of HIV/AIDS and primary care conditions, and in observational cohort analysis of patients enrolled in antiretroviral treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Monique van Lettow, Research Advisor, Epidemiology and Dissemination (MPH, PhD)


vanlettowDr. Monique van Lettow received her PhD in medical sciences from the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands and her Master’s in Public Health from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Prior to joining Dignitas International, Monique served as the Co-Investigator for the Randomized Controlled Trial of Adjunct Micronutrient Therapy for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS study as well as the Program Manager for Johns Hopkins University, stationed in Zomba, Malawi.

Monique has additional research and field experience throughout West and Southern Africa. She joined Dignitas International in 2007 and currently serves as Research Advisor, Epidemiology and Dissemination. Her research interests include TB/HIV integration and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Alemayehu Amberbir, Epidemiologist (MPH, PhD)


Dr-Alemayehu-Amberbir-A-sqDr. Alemayehu Amberbir is a medical epidemiologist with over 10 years of experience in both academia and field research programs in Ethiopia and Malawi. He holds a Masters in Public Health from Jimma University, Ethiopia, and PhD in Epidemiology and Public Health from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. Dr. Amberbir previously held the position of lecturer in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has been involved in the design and implementation of large non-communicable diseases (NCD) surveys focusing on cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in rural and urban Malawi. He currently works as an epidemiologist at Dignitas International based in Zomba, Malawi and is involved in various research efforts, including the Grand Challenges Canada NCD-HIV integration project. His research interests include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases as well as the integration of NCDs and HIV care.

victoriaMeet Our Researchers