Starting and ending well is crucial for research management

by Tommy Esau

A three-day Research Capacity Strengthening Workshop was held at Atoifi Adventist Hospital (AAH) on April 18-21, 2016. The Workshop focussed on Project Management, Financial Management and Academic Writing for Research, with the aim to equip community leaders, health workers, students and administrators with management and financial skills.

The Workshop was facilitated by Mrs Rowena Asugeni, Director of Nursing at AAH, Professor Rick Speare, Dr David MacLaren, Dr Peter Massey, and Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, public researchers from Australia. Mr Hilary Toloka, Research Nurse, Mr Tommy Esau, Research Worker and Mr Humpress Harrington, Head Pacific Adventist University - Atoifi Campus also facilitated discussions, including daily monitoring and evaluation.

The Workshop sessions were run twice each day, with morning sessions and evening sessions mostly in Pijin and English. Practical sessions were held in the afternoons using examples and ideas from different research projects the Atoifi Health Research groups have been involving in.

More than 50 participants from various organisations including leaders from the communities, teachers, nurse professionals, Atoifi hospital staff, Pacific Adventist University Atoifi campus students and staff, and a representative from PAU in PNG also came for Research workshop.

Discussions sought to come to a shared understanding of the essence of terms such as ‘Research’ and ‘Project’. Assumptions were challenged and meanings shared, with changes made to some terms such as ‘research’, which was referred to as ‘wok fo faedim aut’. When people hear the word ‘project’ in Solomon Islands they sometimes think money will be plentiful. This is not the case with grassroots research. Thus we used to term ‘program’ in place of ‘project’ to better fit the cultural and community context in which the research work is taking place. This was a significant outcome of the Workshop.

Mary Laetemu, a female nurse from Namolaelae clinic, said, “this workshop is a indeed a blessing for me. The knowledge and skills I’ve learned will assist me in many ways, both on administration level and financial management.” William Baefo ‘oa a community health nurse from Nafinua Area Health Centre also stated, “research skills are important for all nurses to improve nursing practice and management skills. A lot of projects don’t end well because people lack these skills on planning and proper monitoring and evaluating. Many have shared similar sentiments after attending this Research workshop, was a something of value.

Another WHO TDR- funded research Workshop was planned for July and a Research Symposium in October later this year. This is to strengthen research capacity using learning by doing model to assist local researchers to understanding various issues affecting their communities, organisations and institutions; and how well they able to positively respond in addressing some of these issues.

For more information about the Atoifi Research Group, Please visit: or email rowena

Atoifi Researcher features in Australian radio programme

Today (12.4.16) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) aired a news story about the hunt for rare monkey-faced bats and giant rats. The story opens with singing and dancing by Mr Tommy Esau, Research Assistant with the Atoifi Health Research Group.

Entitled "Scientists venture to Bougainville, Solomon Islands in pursuit of rare mammals", the ABC story reported how the power of traditional knowledge and a new generation of world-class local biologists will be harnessed to find rare and new species of mammals in the Western Pacific.

Chiefs of the Kwainaa'isi Cultural Centre in East Kwaio are working with researchers Mr Tommy Esau and Dr David MacLaren, who recently travelled to the Australian Museum in Sydney, Australia. There Tommy and David partnered with Professor Tim Flannery, researchers from Bougainville and scientists at the Museum.

You can read the transcript below or listen here:

Photo: Tommy Esau being recorded by Jemima Garrett, ABC (photo courtesy of David MacLaren)

New Partnership between Atoifi Adventist Hospital and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

As part of the Atoifi Health Research Group activities, Atoifi Adventist Hospital recently signed a new collaboration agreement with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom (LSHTM).

The collaboration started following the successful visit of the Atoifi Health Research Group to the Solomon Islands National Health Research Symposium in 2015. The team met Dr Michael Marks an infectious diseases doctor and research from LSHTM at the meeting and agreed that there were great opportunities in working together!

Dr Marks has been working in the Solomon Islands since 2013 and has run research studies with the Ministry of Health in Choiseul, Honiara, Malaita and Western Province.

The new collaboration will be initially work on two main projects. The first project will look at a new test which can be used to diagnose both yaws and syphilis – you can read more about the project here:

The second project will look at the benefits of treating whole communities for two common skin conditions – yaws and scabies – and whether treatment is better given at the same time or separately.

The projects will help provide Atoifi Adventist Hospital with important information about skin diseases in East Malaita and provide an opportunity for further research capacity strengthening at the Atoifi Health Research Group.

For more information, please email: Mrs Rowena Asugeni or Dr Michael Marks at

Photos (L-R): Atoifi Health Research team at 2015 National Health Symposium; Michael Marks and community leader in Western Province.

Impacts of sea level rise in Solomon Islands presented at International Conference: An interview with Tommy Esau

....Referred to in this interview:
Tides of Transformation conference presentation

Video of Miriam Asugeni discussing impacts of climate change on women and girls in Abitona village, East Kwaio, Solomon Islands, by Ben Speare

In this interview, Tommy Esau, Research Worker, Atoifi Health Research Group, discusses his first international conference presentation at the Australian Association for Pacific Studies Conference, Tides of Transformation, Cairns, Australia.

by Michelle Redman-MacLaren

What was the main message of your presentation at the Tides of Transformation conference?

The main message of the presentation was about the impact of sea level rise, how it affects our village at Abitona. As you know the impact of sea level rise has caused a lot of physical impact, social impact, some other economic impacts. Mainly the local problem that we face is sea level rise has a physical impact on the main path we use to walk between two villages. In the past we used to have logs on the path, but because of sea level rise it washes the logs away. It has become a problem to the community, and to the school children, and to the old people and the mothers going to market and the hospital. As a local community we came together and fundraised to build a bridge that can help people walk freely - make a link between that two villages. The community are happy about the response to the problem.

What motivated you to present at the conference?

What motivated me to talk to the conference is to help others see the impact of the sea level rise, not only in a big scale, but in a small scale, in a local community. How we as a local community can come together and be a response to local problems. In that way others might hear from it and learn from it. If they also face that problem, they might also learn from that.

One of the aims of the Atoifi Health Research Group is to strengthen research capacity to undertake research activities, including presenting. Can you tell us how did you prepare for the conference presentation?

Prior to the presentation, we had some practice at home, we did a few practices before the presentation. It was very good, before the presentation, the practice was very good to give me some ideas, some critiques. Just before we actually did the presentation we also had some final practice in the room during lunchtime before we actually did the presentation and that was really helpful.

Some might be curious as to how you felt before you started the presentation? What were your feelings?

Just like any person if it is your first time to present in a public presentation, I felt a bit nervous, because looking in the room there are a lot of big people, qualified people like doctors and professors were there, different people, well educated people. It is an academic conference so you expect critique from different people, so you feel a bit nervous. But I tell myself, ‘you have to do it’, so and we did, and also with Michelle and David motivating me and helping me to be confident to do the presentation, but before that I felt a bit nervous, but after that I felt fine.

Do you feel like you connected with the audience? If yes, how did that change the way you presented?

At first, before I went up to the stage and started talking, what makes me connected to the audience, I just look at the audience and I guess my eye contact helped me connect with the audience, and also involving the audience, for example I mentioned some of the names of the audience, like Dr Simon (Foale), so that helped me be connected to the audience, so just by looking at the audience and talking it helped be to be confident. I found when I did my presentation and I looked at the people and then they smiled at me I saw some connection there, and that really helped me to talk more confidently. When you talk to people and they are nodding their head and smiling at you, they connect to what you are presenting.

Did you receive any feedback or comments after the presentation?

I received some positive comments after the presentation. Some said, ‘you did a very good job’. One lady came to me and said thanks for the presentation and she said I spoke so confidently, so that made me feel happy after the presentation. Some of my friends came to the presentation and gave some good comments, saying ‘you know the topic well and you connected to the audience’, so that made me happy.

Where to next? What is your next speaking appointment?

Next week, me and David (MacLaren) are going to Sydney and we will meet important people such as Professor Tim Flanery and others, so I am looking forward to that. Who knows what is in the future, I am looking forward to an opportunity to present at another conference, so now I am happy and I think I can handle it.

Bo`a le`a ba`ita Tommy!

To listen to the interview in full, please visit:

Many thanks to Rowena Asugeni, James Asugeni, Frank Timothy and Abitona and other WAGG communities for sharing your stories.

Mental health impacts of climate change: or email