NOOSA –One of Chimbu’s favourite sons, Jimmy Drekore - in 2014 selected as Papua New Guinea’s Man of Honour and in 2016 winner of the prestigious international World of Children Award - is still kicking goals for PNG’s children.
Research into childhood osteomyelitis initiated in 2011 by Jimmy and his Simbu brother Dr Izzard Agua soon extended into better understanding methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the aggressive bacteria that eats penicillin for breakfast.
Under the banner of Simbu Children Foundation, which Jimmy established in 2004, the research team grew to include a panel of PNG and international researchers and soon began to attract international attention.
Since 2018 it has produced three important peer-reviewed papers and has just been awarded a $1.2 million (K3 million) grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to proceed into a third phase.
The NHMRC is Australia’s leading expert body in health and medical research which approves only about one in ten proposals for funding.
“PNG should be proud with our credibility,” Jimmy says, saying that now SCF can proceed with a third phase of research starting next year.
The first phase discovered the role of the ‘superbug’ MRSA in childhood osteomyelitis and designed a treatment regime.
The second phase undertook gene sequencing which pointed to the disease’s primary suspect as pigs in Far North Queensland.
The third phase will investigate how MRSA is transmitted and design a containment plan to protect children who would otherwise be prone to osteomyelitis.
Osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria entering the bone, often after a minor skin infection, and cause fracturing, stunted growth and chronic infection leading to gangrene, amputation and crippling.
“When I initiated the osteomyelitis research in 2011 I never thought it would come this far,” Jimmy says. “Gratitude to my research wizard brother Dr Izzard Agua, who kept the golden ball rolling.”
Jimmy, a graduate in applied technology from the University of Technology in Lae, comes from the mountains of Giu-Emmai in the Sinasina Yongomugl District of Simbu.
Jimmy started SCF in 2004 while working as an analytical chemist at the Newcrest gold mine at Lihir in New Ireland.
In May 2013, he resigned his job to work fulltime on fund raising to help children receive specialist medical services that were not available locally.
An accomplished poet, he also established the Simbu Writers Association.
His brother in arms, Dr Izzard Agua holds medical and surgery degrees and a Master of Public Health from James Cook University in Townsville.
He currently coordinates clinical research on osteomyelitis, stroke and tuberculosis at Kundiawa General Hospital’s clinical research centre, also serving as the senior medical officer in Simbu.
In addition to his published work on stroke and osteomyelitis, Dr Agua recently joined the editorial board of two paediatric journals, a great distinction for such a young researcher.
Jimmy and Izzard have worked closely with the religious brother, Fr Jan Jaworski, professor of surgery at Divine Word University and a prolific author with 36 peer reviewed journal articles to his credit as well as a long career at Kundiawa General Hospital.
The success of Jimmy, Izzard and the team has led to great rejoicing in Simbu.
“What a milestone achieved for the good of humanity,” wrote Theodore Tei. “Thank you Dr Izzard Agua, the wizard, and Jimmy Drekore, the original Man of Honour.”
Arnold Mundua remarked, “Like I always say, this guy Jimmy can create something from nothing.”
“Human intelligence itself is best defined when it is subjected to serving and understanding humanity, wrote John Waiaki. “A master of serving humanity is the most intelligent human on the planet. Jimmy Drekore you are a genius,”
And Michael Francis Konduagle said, “Jimmy and Dr Izzard Agua are doing some ground breaking research and taking the world by surprise.
“I am so proud of these achievements and claim these as mine. Moneaaaaa, larim ol give title dokta long yu nating ya. What more ol laik lukim?”