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ODU Graduate from Botswana Returns to Campus - as a Professor - to Observe Health Sciences Programs

Almost 25 years ago, Modisa Motaswaledi left Old Dominion University, a 1986 graduate of the Medical Technology program, returning to his native Botswana to work in the field where his skills were badly needed.

Now a professor at the University of Botswana, Motaswaledi returned to Norfolk this week as one of two faculty members touring ODU's School of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences in the College of Health Sciences.

Motaswaledi and colleague Dr. Ishmael Kasvosve, the founding head of the University of Botswana's Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences, toured ODU and Howard University in Washington, D.C., to gather intelligence as their program ramps up. It is scheduled to begin offering degrees at the close of the 2012-13 academic year.

Kasvosve said having the ability to observe ODU's medical technology, cytotechnology and histotechnology programs in a single institution visit was incredibly valuable.

"We want to learn from ODU's experience of having established programs in these areas," he said. "It's our desire to learn from them, use the information to develop the community resources needed to run the programs." The visitors also hope to develop collaborations with ODU in the future.

Botswana is, by African standards, a wealthy country. It's the third-largest producer of diamonds in the world. But Motaswaledi said there has been a serious effort in recent decades to diversify the Botswanan economy, in part through investments in high-tech research.

He said the university's Medical Laboratory Sciences program will contribute the experts needed to do the laboratory work, and the technology investment will mean the nation's health department won't incur the costly expense of sending tissue samples to neighboring South Africa for analysis.

This past week's visit to the ODU campus was Motaswaledi's first since he was a student. He can't believe the changes to the university he graduated from in 1986. "It's incredible, the growth of this campus." But the continuity from when Motaswaledi was a student - one of his instructors, Faye Coleman, the Medical Technology program director - is what facilitated the visit.

Kasvosve was impressed with the reception he and his colleague received. "We met with the provost (Carol Simpson). I would have trouble getting a meeting with my own provost," he laughed. "I've been really impressed and delighted with the way that we've been received. We've been especially pleased with the department's explicit intention to engage with us in a long-term relationship."

Coleman said it's gratifying that a student like Motaswaledi would remember relationships formed more than two decades ago, and want to develop professional links from them. "We think this could be the start of something really great for both institutions," she said. "And we're hopeful we can play a part in helping fund health care research in a nation that is in need."

Sophie Thompson, chair of the School of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences, said they've already started to discuss possible educational exchange and research opportunities with the African visitors.

Motaswaledi is ready to start as soon as possible. "I've been teaching hematology for 17 years, and we've learned things this week in the way ODU structures its program. We're anxious to incorporate what we learned right away."

This article was posted on: October 15, 2010

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