Interview with Alba Merdani and Dorina Toçi

The fellows Dorina Toçi and Alba Merdani, will both graduate in November as fellows of the second Cohort of MediPIET during the Annual Scientific Conference in Brussels. They have completed two International Assignments with MediPIET, one in the National Institute of Public Health of Kosovo* and the second one in the Maastricht University, at the Care and Public Health Research Institute (CAPHRI), in the Netherlands.

Dorina, medical doctor and public health, specialist, works since 2005 at the Institute of Public Health as national coordinator for the surveillance of congenital malformations in Albania.

Alba has a background of bachelor in Biology and Chemistry and is National Coordinator for Abortions Surveillance System in Albania.

Just before to end the two-year learning-by-doing training programme, we want to know a little bit more about their experience.

  • You have completed your two International Assignments that you are expected to commit as a fellow of the MediPIET programme. Where did you develop them and what was the field of activity? What did the International Assignment provided you?

ALBA: In my case, the objective of the first International Assignment was to exchange knowledge and share experience on Brucellosis Surveillance System between three countries: : Kosovo*, Albania and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. For the second International Assignment the main focus was on the Health Information System; understanding the challenges and the complexity of international comparisons of ECHI indicators.

Both International Assignments were an excellent opportunity to learn from other countries experience, to collaborate with different professionals and to gain new skills in terms of expertise and further development.

DORINA: In Kosovo*, I had the opportunity to visit the National Institute of Public Health of Kosovo, the Department of Epidemiology, the Communicable Diseases Clinic and the Food and Veterinary Agency, with a view to understand the functioning of Tularemia surveillance system in Kosovo and be able to strengthen Tularemia surveillance system and prevent the disease in Albania.

In the second IA, I visited the Maastricht University and CAPHRI (Care and Public Health Research Institute), which was an excellent opportunity to enhance my skills in Syndromic Surveillance. I got familiar with Syndromic Surveillance System in Netherlands and studied the dutch experience in order to compare it with our system in Albania, analysing the added value of syndromic surveillance for improving Albania’s surveillance capacity.

  • What does it mean for you to be a fellow of the MediPIET programme?

It is a one in life time opportunity. The MediPIET programme is an excellent opportunity to further enhance our skills and grown up professionally towards prevention and control of a public health threat or event. Learning new things have improved my way of thinking in the field of analytical studies, outbreak investigation and communicable diseases.  During this 2-year programme we have gained experience, visited different countries and met new people and cultures. You feel that you are part of a big international family in the field of epidemiology.

  • How will you use the knowledge acquired in MediPIET for further implementation of your work?

All the gained knowledge and skills will be an added value to our daily work and has enriched us professionally and personally. Together with the supervisors and the national focal point we are thinking to organize cascade trainings in order to strengthen the capacity of public health professionals at regional and local level.

  • In which Public Health projects are you involved in Albania?

ALBA: I am the national coordinator for Abortion Surveillance System. Since 2007 the Institute of Public Health in Tirana monitors the data regarding abortions by using one single and unified abortion reporting format. The Department of Epidemiology and Health Systems is responsible for receiving, processing the data on abortion and compilation of annual reports for the Ministry of Health and National Institute of Statistics.

DORINA: As a medical doctor, I work on non-communicable diseases at the Institute of Public Health in Albania at the Department of Epidemiology and Health Systems, in the National Surveillance System of Congenital Malformations, being involved more on reproductive health issues.

  • In the field of Epidemiology and Public Health, what are the main threats Albania have to face?

The current public health threats in Albania are related with the rapid spread of infectious diseases. Food-borne diseases are also a public health concern and the trade between countries increases the risk of potential outbreaks. On the other hand, non-communicable diseases are the main burden of morbidity and mortality in Albania. Therefore, strengthening the capacity in the country should be the main focus to timely identify, rapid asses and response during outbreaks.

  • From 28th to 30th November the third Annual Scientific Conference of MediPIET will be held in Brussels. What is the topic of the abstract, as final project investigation, that you will present?

ALBA: It is a great opportunity for fellows to present the results of their scientific work. In this conference I will present the evaluation of Abortion Surveillance System in Albania. The results of the evaluation report will be used as a basis for planning the further steps to improve the surveillance system.

DORINA: As for me, the topic of my presentation will be the “Evaluation of Congenital Malformations Surveillance System in Albania during 2015”.



* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence