Notes from the Field: Dr. Ian Tietjen in Africa, Part 5
Dr. Ian Tietjen is a Research Assistant Professor in Wistar’s Montaner Lab, where he investigates traditional African medicinal compounds’ potential for drug origination against viruses like HIV. Dr. Tietjen travels to Africa to work with traditional healers to better understand the function of these compounds.
If you haven’t started this series with part one, click here.
9 August 2023 — After the big community session and the experimental workshop, today was a lighter day with the group. We travelled to Domboshaba, which is a cultural heritage site for the Kalanga peoples that was excavated nearly 100 years ago. The healers pointed out numerous plants that are used for medicines. The place has long been a site for training healers and general spiritual contact with the ancestors. After lunch, we gave some final speeches, and both the Secwepemc delegation and Kalanga healers serenaded all of us with their traditional songs. The healers are being driven home to their local villages or as far as Francistown.
They’re excited to work with biomedical researchers in a way that shares the benefits of collaboration between scientific partners.
10 August 2023 — Today our group of researchers and some healers took a cultural trip out to the Elephant Sands park, where there are very few people but lots of wildlife. There is a watering hole nearby, and the elephants come up very close to you while you are eating lunch.
On the way back one of the healers seemed to be getting more comfortable with us, asking a lot of questions about how HIV works and health science advice more generally. Afterwards, he treated us all to cups of sour milk from a roadside stand that also had Mopani worms, which are large grubs that are dried and salted. I’ve seen reality shows where contestants have to eat these in order to stay in the competition, but it was nowhere as bad as the shows made it out to be.