Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Medicine (MMed)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dorothy Kamya

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Wangari Waweru-Siika

Third Supervisor/Advisor

Caroline Kathomi


Anaesthesiology (East Africa)


Background: The successful completion and submission of a dissertation is a fundamental milestone for many residency programs worldwide. Publication of a dissertation in a peer-reviewed journal makes it more accessible and is impactful within the scientific context. It contributes to the global outlook of total burden of disease, for which significant geographical variation exists. Publication of residents’ research is a convenient surrogate marker for research training and experience. However, the preparation of a manuscript, successful submission and acceptance in a peerreviewed journal is challenging for both residents and their supervisors.

Justification: Aga Khan University (AKU) invests heavily in infrastructure to facilitate research by its residents. Development of concepts, proposals and dissertations by residents is scrutinized by faculty to ensure the end product is publishable. A retrospective document review of 224 Post Graduate Medical Education (PGME) alumni who graduated from 2008-2020 showed only 67 (30%) had successfully published their dissertations in peer-reviewed journals, which is relatively lower than the global average.

Objectives: This study was conducted to explore why there is low conversion of dissertations to publications by residents at AKU and to examine possible strategies to increase publications.

Methods: An exploratory qualitative study was conducted between September 2020 and January 2021. Purposive and quota sampling was used to select 18 residents based on gender, specialty and whether their dissertation was published or not. University staff who worked closely with residents while developing their dissertations were also recruited. They included two senior faculty, two programme directors (PDs) and four members of the Research Support Unit (RSU), selected based on their ability to provide rich data and informative responses relevant to this vi study. In-depth interviews were carried out via face-to-face or online Zoom® until thematic saturation was achieved, Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcribed data were analysed using Nvivo ® software. Data were coded, themes generated independently by two researchers to ensure rigor/validity of the analysis, indexed, charted and results tabulated accordingly.

Results: Data from twenty six respondents was analyzed from which five main themes emerged. The major factors affecting residents’ publication success included; their interest in research, perception/attitudes towards research and experience during dissertation development. The barriers and facilitators of publication in addition to strategies to increase them were explored. Residents’ ability to prepare a manuscript and select an appropriate journal was pivotal in determining progression to publication. Supervisors played a key role in influencing and facilitating residents’ publication of their dissertations. Research by faculty exposed residents to its conduct, expediting comprehension and acceptance of the same by residents. Suggested strategies to improve publications by residents included: Increasing time allocated for research, demystifying the research and publication process to alter residents’ perspectives and increased research by faculty. Furthermore, the recommendation by the Commission for University Education (CUE) for all postgraduate students to publish before graduating should be enforced.

Conclusion: Previous research experience, innate interest in research, mentorship and an enabling environment were key aspects in facilitating residents to publish their dissertations. Research by faculty cultivates a positive research culture and influences residents’ acceptance of research hence easing their ability to publish. Training modules included in the curriculum aided residents in elucidating research and improved the quality of their dissertations. In addition, institutional input and support from the RSU staff is fundamental in easing residents’ research journey.