Dr. Nyambura Is Back As Director At National Lab. But Who Is She?

Dr. Nyambura Moremi has returned to the role of Director at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL). A dedicated microbiologist, she had served in the same capacity until 2020 when she was controversially removed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her return could evoke nostalgic moments of past struggles faced by scientists who were caught in the crossfire between politics and public health in the early days of the pandemic, as the virus–by then termed as novel coronavirus (nCoV)– spread across the world, sparking fear and debate. Four years later,  on Thursday, 11th April, 2024 the NPHL has announced her re-appointment to the helm of the national lab. 

To many, Dr. Nyambura’s name resonates with the COVID-19 story but she is way beyond the pandemic rhetoric. Born in the Serengeti District of Tanzania, she dreamt of becoming a doctor since childhood, inspired by the deeds of one doctor’s dedication to medical practice.  Born to an Accountant father and a housewife mother, targets were set high for her and three siblings.

“The school journey was a target, cast in stone only second to our spirituality,’’ she says, recounting her story.  “I dreamt of being a doctor since primary school and my inspiration came from seeing a doctor treating a baby who couldn’t talk and express feelings but  got cured,” she tells MedicoPRESS. 

Growing up in a family that valued education, she, along with her siblings, faced high academic expectations. Despite challenges, she excelled throughout primary and secondary school, eventually securing admission to the prestigious Weill Bugando University College of Health and Allied Sciences (WBUCHS) in 2006 (now the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, CUHAS).

Also read: American body appoints a Tanzanian as Science Ambassador, she speaks out

Medical school presented its own set of hurdles, yet Dr. Moremi persevered. Her hard work earned her recognition, culminating in the “Team Tanzania Scholar Award 2011” for being the overall best student. This award, offered by Tanzanians living in the United States of America, not only fueled her academic pursuits but also helped her publish her first research paper.

“In the midst of clearing my undergraduate studies, I was able to utilize the award money to pay for publication of my first paper that was pending of work which I did, in my elective period (4th year in medical school),’’ she says, referring to the paper that delved into the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing infections at Bugando Medical Centre, titled:  “Predominance of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus -ST88 and new ST1797 causing wound infection and abscesses” at Bugando Medical Centre, Mwanza-Tanzania. 

Dr. Moremi’s career trajectory took a decisive turn following graduation. Her alma mater offered her a teaching assistantship in the department of Microbiology and Immunology. This period proved pivotal, as she secured a scholarship to pursue doctoral studies in Germany. Recognizing the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in Tanzania, Dr. Moremi chose this critical area as her research focus, aligning with the World Health Organization’s Global Health Security Agenda.

Her Ph.D. studies, pursued through a collaborative program between CUHAS and Julius-Maximilian University of Wuerzburg, Germany, spanned five years. Upon her return, Dr. Moremi resumed her teaching position at the university, determined to implement an infection transmission tracking system and bolster national antimicrobial resistance surveillance. 

However, a higher calling awaited. After a rigorous selection process, she was appointed Director of the NPHL in 2018. Dr. Moremi’s leadership at the NPHL was marked by significant contributions. She spearheaded initiatives to maintain quality standards, leading to the accreditation of various laboratory sections by the Southern African Development Community Accreditation Service (SADCAS) under the ISO 15189:2012 standard. 

As a prolific researcher, she has actively led and participated in numerous projects, resulting in over 45 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Dr. Moremi’s dedication extended beyond the laboratory walls. 

She is also a prolific writer. Read one of her pieces: Cure and care beyond social class: A tale of Mwanza city’s Achilles’ heel

In 2017, she was recognized for her achievements by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), becoming the first Tanzanian to be appointed as the organization’s young ambassador for science.

However, Dr. Moremi’s tenure at the NPHL was abruptly cut short in 2020. This period coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak, a time when Tanzania’s approach to the crisis sparked international debate.  Her removal ignited discussions about the potential conflict between scientific transparency and political agendas.

Also read: Covid-19: Tanzania suspends National Laboratory boss

Dr. Moremi’s recent reappointment to the NPHL director position signifies a shift in Tanzania’s approach to public health that commenced in 2021 after President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office.

Syriacus Buguzi
Syriacus Buguzi
Syriacus Buguzi is a Science Journalist. His reporting focusses on research, medical science, environment and technology.


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