Dr. Meghnath Dhimal | Kathmandu, Nepal
Chief/Senior Research Officer, Nepal Health Research Council
July 12, 2022
Our urgent priority should be to safeguard the existence of our future generations.
Interviewed by: William Dangel, former IHME Engagement Officer. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How does the GBD support your work at the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC)?
I have been regularly working as a GBD collaborator since 2017 and GBD work has helped my work at NHRC for developing research questions, tracking progress on SDG indicators/targets, and advocating for evidence-based decision making in annual work planning and budgeting. Besides my contributions on several peer-reviewed publications, I led the publication team for the Nepal Burden of Disease Report 2017 in 2019 and Nepal Burden of Disease Report 2019 in 2021.
I also use findings of GBD as teaching and reference materials in universities in Nepal and abroad. I encourage key people in the government and academic sectors to join as GBD collaborators so that the burden of disease estimation can be improved and widely used by data producers, end users, and relevant stakeholders.
What are you working on outside of the GBD?
Besides my work on GBD, I have been involved in several research projects on climate change and health, environmental health, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), tropical and infectious diseases, COVID-19, mental health, and social determinants of health. My career objective is to contribute towards the control and prevention of NCDs and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Nepal. By giving media interviews and writing blog posts, I am continuously contributing to the improvement of people’s health through evidence generation and the wider dissemination of findings.
In my current role as Chief Research Officer at NHRC, I contribute to research, academics, policy making, and capacity building through the research process, such as providing input in the pilot study of the Smart Verbal Autopsy software. I also serve as an Associate Academician of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, a member of Research Coordination and Development Council of Tribhuvan University, the founder and coordinator of Young Scientists Forum Nepal, member of the Steering Committee for the Asia regional chapter of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), a contributing author of IPCC’s sixth assessment report, and an expert member of the Inter Academy Partnership’s regional report on climate change and health for Asia. Lastly, over the last decade and a half, I have supervised over 10 PhD and Master’s students and trained more than 10,000 researchers on health systems research methodology, ethical review, and scientific writing.
What motivates you in your work?
I am motivated by the continuous engagement in science policy dialogue and capacity building activities in research, and the ability to network and collaborate with other researchers.
Three books you’d recommend, and why?
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. This book is extremely useful to learn time management skills and improve habits for professional development.
- The Craft of Scientific Writing, 4th edition by Michael Alley. This book taught me how to write many papers.
- Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves co-edited by Dr. Samuel Myers and Dr. Howard Frumkin with contributions from widely recognized experts. This book, which provides the fundamentals of planetary health, encouraged me to work further in this field.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
My key accomplishment that I am really proud of is the balance of my professional and family life. My partner and I cared for two kids during my academic career, including earning my PhD degree from Germany in 2011 through the prestigious DAAD scholarship, earning the Best Department Award of the Nepal Health Research Council in 2021 as the Chief of Research section, producing over 200 publications, and receiving over 12,000 citations.
What are you hoping to achieve next?
In a nutshell, improving the overall quality of human and environmental research in Nepal. To achieve this, the Nepali government should make it a high priority to enhance the country’s research capacity and attract young researchers. There is a need for more constructive support to young Nepali scholars and I would like to mentor and support the young scientific community.
What has been surprising to discover in your research or career?
I am always excited by the scientific community’s findings. As a scientist, it is a never-ending process getting to discover new things and to learn various domains of science. I wonder about the things that are yet to be explored, especially as Nepal makes progress in research discoveries.
We work in global health, and many of us share a passion for travel and discovery. Where are your favorite places to visit in Nepal when not restricted by COVID-19?
I was born in the eastern hilly region of Nepal, and hiking into the woods and closely observing nature has been my passion since childhood. Most of Nepal is geographically categorized into Himalayan, Hilly, and the plains—I have favorite places from all the regions, including Illam, Dhankuta, Morang, Pokhara, Mustang, Jumla, and Mugu.
What worries keep you up at night?
When I see my kids, it reminds me of the future of millennials and Generation Z. I am worried as a parent and a scientist about the catastrophes that climate change and air pollution could bring to this beautiful country of the Himalayas. As the burden of disease and erratic climatic patterns have risen globally with the threats of emerging diseases, I am shattered thinking about the lives that have been and will be lost. Our urgent priority should be to safeguard the existence of our future generations.
The collaborator spotlight project showcases individuals within IHME’s expansive network of over 7,000 global collaborators who conduct the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) and its affiliated research projects. This series of interviews gives an inside look at the people behind the research, as they discuss their current projects outside of GBD, book recommendations, and more.
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