Written by Maureen Mebo Valle

Contributors: Carrie Noxon, Emily Bull, and Nicole Moreno

Maureen Mebo Valle, Biomedical Engineer and Researcher, Technical Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, and NEST360 fellow, was joined by the Houston team to work on BreathAlert and Celsi Monitor with our colleagues at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi.

This blog is one of four from the team members in Houston and Malawi who worked in Malawi in early summer 2022 on these studies.

Figure 1: Josh, Rowland, Maureen, and Betsy

Hi!  I’m Maureen Mebo Valle. I grew up on Likoma Island and am currently based in Blantyre, Malawi. I majored in biomedical engineering at Malawi University of Science and Technology in Thyolo. I briefly worked at Mzuzu Central hospital as a maintenance engineer.  As a medical device design enthusiast, I worked on a number of neonatal technologies before joining NEST360. It gives me joy knowing that I am contributing to saving neonatal lives through my work and dedication as a Technical Monitoring & Evaluation Officer (NEST360 Malawi Fellow).

Working with the Houston team virtually has been a great experience; however, we were honored to work in person with such a dedicated, goal-oriented, and talented team for two weeks at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH).

My work at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Malawi

Primarily, I am responsible for conducting clinical trials and usability studies at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. I am in charge of implementing, monitoring, and evaluating BreathAlert study and OxygenProtect study. BreathAlert device helps detect apnea episodes in sick neonates. OxygenProtect device is a novel set of filters to help sustain oxygen concentrator life span by reducing dust accumulation inside the concentrator. During the visit, I worked with the Houston BreathAlert Fellow (Josh Coyle), helped the Celsi warmer fellow (David Kimmey) with data collection, and worked with Betsy Asma (Rice360 Director of Technology Development) and Shababa Matin (Houston fellow) collecting usability data.

I work in the Chatinkha nursery ward; this is a special neonatal intensive care unit close to the delivery ward at QECH. When a baby is born or referred from another hospital and requires immediate care, they are brought to this ward. We work in both the High Dependency Unit (HDU) and the low-risk area, depending on the study’s inclusion criteria.

We were able to test the new BreathAlert device and managed to collect meaningful data. We also enrolled the required number into the usability studies.

We will continue to recruit more participants for the BreathAlert device and work virtually with Josh on data analysis in the coming months. And also will continue helping out with the Celsi Warmer study and hope to start the Oxygen Protect study in the Chatinkha nursery soon!

The picture above shows our team. We also worked with Prince Mtenthaonga (our study nurse) and Lucky Mangwiro (our study coordinator).

This was an incredible experience that positively impacted my life as I gained more skills and interest in usability and signal processing. I am even propelled to focus either on human factors engineering or signal processing as my next career move. This also strengthened my communication skills and exposure, and I was able to build a good working relationship with the team. Apart from work, we  also had moments to get to know each other at a personal level.