Growing up, we thought that a passion for good health only led to medicine as a career. However, Neema has combined this passion with statistics to build her career in epidemiology;
Hi Neema, thank you for accepting to teach us about epidemiology. We are happy to have you on Words That Count
Thank you very much for reaching out and for this opportunity. I am happy to be featured on your website and to share my story.
For a brief introduction, who is Neema?
My name is Neema Mosha from Tanzania. Currently, I work as a research scientist (Medical Statistician & Epidemiologist) and a lecturer at a number of universities – including the Catholic University of Health and Allied Science (CUHAS) in Mwanza-Tanzania, Stellenbosch University in Cape Town-South Africa, and Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich-Germany.
Being a statistician has given me the opportunity to be involved in multiple projects and programs. My current project is on Gender-based violence and women empowerment, Child abuse, and Mental Health. However, I have worked on topics around Disability, Health systems, Communicable diseases (HIV and Covid 19), and Non-communicable diseases (Hypertension, Diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases).
I also work as a consultant to different international and national organizations.
As an African child, how did your interest in Epidemiology begin?
I was born and raised in Moshi-Kilimanjaro, north of Tanzania, as the second and last born in a family of two children (an elder brother). I spent my junior and high school in government schools in Moshi and Arusha until I moved to Dodoma for my University.
My passion for mathematics began at the tender age of 6 to 7 years when I liked playing as a mathematics teacher to my age mates. So, my mom always thought I would become a teacher. However, during my high school years, I developed a passion for living a healthy lifestyle. As a young woman finding a niche for my career, I did not understand how to merge the two passions, especially how I could use numbers and teachings to help people in my community have better health.
This was a question until I met my mentor (Prof. Jim Todd) who introduced me to Applied Biostatistics, a few months after graduating with my BSc in Statistics and Mathematics. Ever since I have never looked back. With his guidance, I managed to do a master’s degree in Epidemiology and Biostatics and finally a Ph.D. in Biostatistics.
Let’s talk about some of the challenges you have faced while building your career in Epidemiology
Covid-19 took one of my professors who played a major role during my Ph.D. journey. His passing devastated me mentally and professionally, which led to extending my studies one more year. Being a young woman in a male-dominated field makes it a challenge, I have to work extra hard to prove that I have what it takes to get the work done.
Work-life balance: As a mother, balancing my daily life as any other woman while thoroughly doing my job can be difficult.
How are you able to push through some of these challenges?
Being able to help people through scientific evidence pushes me every day. I believe that we can accomplish everything we want once we have a good health system.
Also sharing what I have with other people excites me. I love teaching and showing the younger generation that they can be anything they want regardless of where they came from or their gender.
Tell us about some of the most prestigious moments on your journey in Epidemiology
One of my biggest achievements is completing my Ph.D. in a male-dominated field.
In 2019 I was recognized as one among 100 women (#tanzaniasheroes2019) from different cadres that can be looked up to by the younger generation. The book was printed in collaboration with Launchpad and the Swedish Embassy.
I have received two awards, for my master’s and Ph.D. journeys. My Master’s was through Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence (THRiVE) which is an East African Consortium. My Ph.D. was from the Sub-Saharan Consortium for Advanced Biostatistics (SSACAB) Training. These were both Wellcome Trust grants.
You live such a busy life, Neema! How do you spend your free time – if you get it?
I love keeping fit, so I spend most of my evening time in the gym and running. My other passions are traveling, reading books, and watching documentaries while enjoying a drink, and some good music with family and friends. I am also a football lover; I don’t miss any Manchester United or Simba Sports Club games.
Children hold a special place in my heart! So, I am always open to taking part in anything that involves vulnerable children.
I know you are passionate about mentoring young women in STEM. Give us a summary of the work you do in the aspect
I mentor young girls to understand their career options and how to pursue these options.
Additionally, I am currently working with my friends in the field to develop a career mentorship program, which aims to visit different universities that offer science degrees. We want to provide career talks and facilitate young women in mathematics with career options. I have learned that the young generation does not know what career paths to take, irrespective of the knowledge and degree programs they are involved in.
Also, we do run different short courses in the areas of statistics and epidemiology. These courses are always free, and I encourage anyone who wants to build a career around this area to attend.
What is your favorite quote?
I am not sure where I got these quotes, but they live within me. The first one is, “Time Will Tell” ~ Anonymous, and the second one is, “Everything is a Choice” ~ Anonymous.
What is your word of encouragement for a young girl who is interested in Epidemiology?
Being a scientist does not mean you should be boring; a woman can become a scientist and have a life like any other woman in the finance, entrepreneurship, or entertainment industry. As difficult as it is, it is very important to have a work-life balance.
Mentee and Mentor relationship is a key to the future generation. Build a good relationship with your mentor and maintain that relationship all the time. It can open so many locked doors.
Technology is growing exponentially; having access to information requires the capability of getting the right information at the right time and the right place for execution.
Young upcoming girls should always stay humble, patient, and focused. Always be willing to learn from others, admit when you have made a mistake, and be kind to others.
Thank you, Neema! I appreciate the time you have spared to share your STEM journey with us. Thank you for showing us the possibility of joining and pursuing Epidemiology as a career. All the best in the future.