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Dr Suwarti (Atie) began her journey with OUCRU Indonesia in 2018 as an awardee of the OUCRU Young Scientist Fellowship programme, when she embarked on a research journey into leptospirosis, a neglected tropical disease. Her curiosity and commitment to improving health outcomes have seen her research interests expand to the molecular diagnostic of Tuberculosis, Covid-19, and HIV.

Atie’s approach to science is as much about understanding the pathogens as it is about understanding the people—both those she works with and those she aims to help through her research. Her work involves coordinating complex studies and managing dynamic teams, a challenge she meets with sensitivity and authority. 

Reflecting on her leadership role, she acknowledged the complexities of managing a diverse group of individuals and the importance of reaching mutual agreements. Atie’s leadership style emphasises the value of critical thinking, reflective practice, and the courage to admit and learn from one’s mistakes. This approach has led to successful project outcomes also fostered a positive and resilient team environment.

Atie credits her growth in part to the “Make a Difference” leadership programme, which she joined in 2022. The programme, designed to last two years, has had a profound impact on her, reshaping her leadership and management style. She speaks of the programme with enthusiasm, noting its distinctive delivery, the modular arrangement, and the ample space it provides for interaction and personal expression—all within a well-structured and timely framework. 

Atie said: ‘Leadership is not just about guiding others; it’s about understanding yourself first. The Make a Difference programme taught me different ways to lead myself and others. I learnt that sometimes it’s okay for a leader to step back. This new understanding changed how I think about leading. It’s important to look at your own actions and make your own improvements before asking others to change. Good leadership starts with you and affects everyone around you.’

After two years of participating in the Make A Difference Programme, Atie has become more introspective, learning to think before speaking and to reflect on her actions more deeply. This shift in mindset has transformed her relationship with her team, allowing her to lead by example and to cultivate a culture where leadership potential is recognised and nurtured in everyone. 

‘The significant change I’ve observed since participating in the Make a Difference programme is in my deliberation process. I now pause to consider my words carefully before speaking, and I’m more contemplative about each decision I make. This shift has allowed me to act less on impulse and more on thoughtful reflection, ensuring my responses are measured and not merely reactionary’, Atie added.

The changes that Atie has implemented are not confined to her immediate team. Her influence extends to various other groups within OUCRU, including the clinical trial unit and laboratory management group. She describes her interactions with these groups as “huge,” often involving a collaboration of five to ten people or more, depending on the project.  

Atie said: ‘In our field, collaboration is key. The leadership programme has equipped me with the skills to bring people together towards a common goal, despite our differences.’

As Atie continues to tackle the significant challenges of infectious disease in Indonesia, her leadership style—rooted in positivity, reflection, and the constant pursuit of improvement—stands as a testament to the power of personal growth in achieving professional excellence. 

Despite numerous achievements as a scientist and as an emerging leader at OUCRU Indonesia, when asked about her proudest achievement, she simply stated: ‘I wouldn’t call it my proudest achievement; it’s simply my duty. I believe my role truly shines when I inspire others to give their all and to be proactive in their efforts. When they do, and it results in the smooth success of a project, that’s where the real satisfaction lies.’

In the face of infectious threats that know no borders, Atie’s work at OUCRU Indonesia remains crucial. Her commitment to fostering a collaborative and thoughtful approach to leadership in science not only advances research efforts but also inspires a new generation of young leaders who are empowered to tackle global health issues.