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Malaria research wins Nigerian doctor top international student award in Adelaide


Chidozi Elvis Chidi-Ezama has many strings to his bow – and although he is an accomplished violinist, the most important of those strings is not music, but his work to detect malaria.

After training to be a doctor in his native Nigeria, Mr Chidi-Esama, 34, moved to Adelaide in 2019 to study biomedical engineering at Flinders University.

“Doctor’s practice was really a bit of a bummer for me,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Jules Schiller.

“The reason I went to med school and studied all eight years was because I wanted to help people, but then you start practicing.

“The people who need this help are poor and cannot afford it [it]because they just can’t pay for it, so you just watch them slowly die.”

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Chidozi Elvis Chidi-Esama talks to ABC Radio Adelaide’s Jules Schiller.

Mr Chidi-Esama, who goes by his middle name Elvis after a family friend who was himself named after the American rock and roll legend and died during his country’s civil war, said malaria was one of the most major health problems facing the developing world.

According to the World Health Organization latest global malaria reportNigeria accounted for 27 percent of the 241 million cases in 2020 and nearly 32 percent of the 627,000 deaths.

For his master’s thesis, Mr. Chiji-Ezama looked for ways to reduce these numbers.

“If you don’t detect malaria effectively, giving medicine is as useless as not giving because there are many strains of malaria and you have to know which one is which,” he said.

“I was very sure that this was exactly what I wanted to study.

“Flinders University had a master’s program in biomedical engineering, and even more so for people who weren’t exactly engineers, so they had a path.”

Chidozi Biomedical Engineering student Elvis Chidi-Ezama holds a soldering iron.
Mr. Chiji-Ezama combines medical and engineering skills.(Facebook)

He was working on a small prototype detection device that could serve as a more affordable alternative to existing – but much more expensive – machines.

“We found one on the market that costs up to $25,000,” he said.

“No one would ever be able to buy that in Nigeria or any other developing country in Africa, so the aim was to develop something that was cheap to manufacture and could be easily maintained and used in rural Africa.

“That’s why 3D printing came about, because 3D printing is really cheap.”

“A rare combination of skills”

In recognition of his efforts, Mr Chidi-Ezama has been recognized with special awards by international student support agency StudyAdelaide.

He was named the winner in the postgraduate category at the International Student Awards 2022.


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