UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES | NOVEMBER 2022, VOL. 4
The Liberia Medical Students Association Collaborates With The Federation Of Africa Medical Students Associations To Host The Liberia Health Education And Research Virtual Conference 2022
Research is vital for improving the consciously constructed learning opportunities that comprise health education. Education research aims to advance medical students' knowledge, skills, and professionalism by understanding and evaluating educational ecosystems. Despite how vital health education and research are to every emerging healthcare professionals in Liberia, few Liberian health science students are engaged in research and innovation.
To begin to fill this gap, the Liberia Medical Students Association (LMSA), an independent and nonpolitical medical campus-based organization, collaborated with the Federation of African Medical Students Associations (FAMSA) to host a 3-day virtual health education and research conference.
The Liberia Health Education and Research Conference 2022 was aimed at promoting an inter-professional approach to contemporize healthcare education through research skills development among current and emerging professionals from health-related and non-health-related backgrounds in Liberia and Africa. The event was endorsed and supported by the College of Health Sciences at the University of Liberia, and other institutions, including the USAID-Funded BRIDGE-U Project, Welikermah Foundation, Mertu Diagnosis, and Giddings Polytechnic.
After the vetting process, the organizers accepted 469 applicants to participate in the conference. An intensive 3-days of interactions and knowledge sharing with different health experts and one another led to the following:
Skills and knowledge about various aspects of health and research in Liberia, Africa, and globally
Expanded networks with colleagues and stakeholders in health & research
An attitude of thinking globally but acting locally to improve communities.
Exposure to regional bodies such as FAMSA and the opportunities they offer for networking and professional development.
After the Conference, the next steps presented by the organizers included the following:
Maintaining the network built by the conference for the purpose of organizing an interprofessional network of current and emerging healthcare professionals;
Working with the various Tribe Leads from the Conference to host or organize the face-to-face version of the Conference before the end of 2022;
Working with the various partners to organize more activities that will drive the interest of professionals towards interprofessional collaboration and research skills development among emerging healthcare professionals.
SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Using Evidence to Inform Programmatic Change for Addressing Childhood Malnutrition
The ULSOPH is collaborating with the Ministry of Health Nutrition Division, UNICEF, and Power of Nutrition to collect data on nutrition programs in Liberia. On September 15-16, 2022, a group of stakeholders from the Montserrado and Grand Bassa County Health Teams and partner organizations, joined ULSOPH and its colleagues from the Ministry of Health Nutrition Division and UNICEF to hear about the results from a two-county coverage survey. The survey findings were presented through a series of maps to demonstrate how key indicators varied across the two counties. The approach was similar to that undertaken in 2018, allowing for comparisons over time. The dissemination meeting was eye-opening, as it suggested low coverage of nutrition programmatic services, such as MUAC screening, case-finding, and treatment coverage for malnourished children. The coverage levels were about half of what they were in 2018. The evidence from the survey led to action-planning to identify different issues in care delivery from both the supply and demand side that could be resulting in the observed data, and to develop plans for acting to address them.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation will be undertaken by ULSOPH faculty and students to assess how well the action plans are being implemented, ahead of a follow-up survey to determine how effectively they addressed the problems.
Student Researcher Malcom B. Weller Represents the UL School of Public Health at the Sabin Midline Coalition Meeting Held in Dubai, UAE
Malcom B. Weller, a MPH student at ULSOPH and the project coordinator on the school's project with Vaccination Acceptance Research Network (VARN), attended a three-day (from July 26 to July 28, 2022) midline coalition meeting organized by the Sabin Vaccine Institute. VARN is a network consisting of 39 institutions from 21 different countries in different cohorts. Network members have been funded to work on social and behavioral research projects whose findings are intended to increase vaccine acceptance.
Day one of the meeting saw presentations from the grantees, including Malcom's presentation on behalf of ULSOPH on the project, "Assessing Social, Demographic, and Clinical Drivers of COVID-19 Vaccination Behaviors in Post-Ebola Liberia."
Day two of the meeting looked at lessons learned from the different projects around combating misinformation and addressing vaccine hesitancy, and included a presentation on available tools and guidance around Behavioral and Social Drivers for vaccination. The last day of the training was on advocacy: that is, how can researchers influence policymakers to act on findings. A strategic communication workshop was conducted to build the capacity of researchers on how to communicate the results of research effectively.
ULSOPH is committed to doing meaningful research and enabling research opportunities for its students. Thanks Malcom for representing us and paving the way for future opportunities!
ULSOPH is working on Malaria!
We are eager to be collaborating on three projects:
ULSOPH is the implementing partner for the ongoing Therapeutic Efficacy Study (TES). This is a critical study conducted every few years in Liberia to detect malaria parasite drug resistance and inform national policy about treatment guidelines. Check out the results of the last Liberia TES here (a publication by Mr. Victor Koko and colleagues).
The ULCHS lab will be used for the microscopy component of the ongoing Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS), conducted by NMCP. ULSOPH laboratory scientists will be working to ensure accurate diagnosis of malaria from a representative national sample of under-5 children.
ULSOPH recently collaborated with the National Malaria Control Program and technical partners on a mixed-methods study to understand enabling factors and barriers to the uptake of intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy in rural Liberia. A team of ULSOPH researchers, data managers, and field data collectors implemented the project. While fieldwork and preliminary analyses have concluded, ongoing scientific collaboration with NMCP, PMI, and Jhpiego is intended to generate evidence and inform programmatic decisions.
ULSOPH is working on Abortion!
ULSOPH is leading a consortium to enhance the evidence base with abortion-related research in Liberia.
ULSOPH is working with the Institute for Population Studies (IPS) and the Guttmacher Institute to assess existing capacity for abortion-related research in Liberia and to generate more evidence around the topic to inform the population and policy makers. Together, the team has formed the Consortium to Strengthen Abortion-related Research in Liberia (CoSARL).
Although the topic is sensitive, it is important to provide evidence on abortion in Liberia, including the stigma surrounding it, the healthcare needs among women who practice unsafe abortions, and other issues that affect the health of Liberian girls and women.
Findings from a needs assessment conducted by CoSARL suggested that sexual and reproductive health research stakeholders in Liberia have done little abortion-related research specifically and that relatively few participants (<20%) had led research on any reproductive health topic in a principal investigator (PI) capacity. Gaps were thus identified in the abortion topic area and in opportunities for locally led research. To start to address some gaps, CoSARL is also working with a team of CSOs on the project, Amplifying Voices, to co-design and implement research that will generate evidence for advocacy around sexual and reproductive heatlh in Liberia.
SCHOOL OF PHARMACY
School of Pharmacy Conducts Training on Herbal Medicine Toxicity and Safety Testing
The School of Pharmacy conducted a week-long training on Herbal Medicine Toxicity and Safety Testing from May 16 to 19, 2022. The training was conducted by the African Center of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS) at Lagos University in Collaboration with the School of Pharmacy and Ministry of Health (Complementary Medicine Unit, headed by Dr. Pharmacist Mohammed B. Kamara).
Conducted on the campus of the College of Health Sciences in Monrovia, the training brought together 162 participants, to be trained in the area of Herbal Medicine Toxicological evaluation and result interpretation. Participants included students of the School of Pharmacy, Registered Pharmacists, Lecturers and Herbal manufacturers as well as dealers in Liberia.
The availability of Essential Medicines in various hospitals and clinics in Liberia continue to be a major challenge for the National Government; consequently, many inhabitants of the country are now seeking alternative treatment including Herbal or Traditional Medicine, especially people living in hard-to-reach counties or regions. The current increase in demand for herbal products around the world, especially in Africa including Liberia, is now a call to integrate Traditional Medicine into the National Healthcare system of developing countries by both Alma Ata and Astana declarations of 1978 and 2018, respectively. Based on the above unfolding, the School in collaboration with the Ministry of Health deems it necessary to upgrade the knowledge of pharmacists and other Healthcare providers in the management of Herbal Drugs in Liberia.
At the close of the training the Director of ACEDHARS, Dr. Omobola Ademilua, said the program is intended to introduce the traditional Herbal programs in all west African countries. She also stressed that west Africa has a lot of herbal medicines that have the potential of catering to its citizens. The Director of the African Center of Excellent for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS) also announced to the public that there will be twenty-seven scholarships awarded to participants to advance themselves in Herbal Medicine Development. At the end of the training, 162 participants received certificates of participation.
1. Abraham S. Alabi, Stephen W. Picka, Reubvera Sirleaf, Pacifique R. Ntirenganya, Arnold Ayebare, Nidia Correa, Sarah Anyango, Gerald Ekwen, Emmanuel Agu, Rebecca Cook, John Yarngrorble, Ibrahim Sanoe, Henry Dugulu Emmanuel Wiefue, Diana Gahn-Smith, Francis N. Kateh, Ezekiel F. Hallie, Christiane G. Sidonie, Aaron O. Aboderin, David Vassellee, Damien Bishop, Daniel Lohmann, Manja Naumann-Hustedt, Alois Dörlemann and Frieder Schaumburg (2022) Implementation of an antimicrobial stewardship programme in three regional hospitals in the south-east of Liberia: lessons learned. JAC Antimicrob Resist https://doi.org/10.1093/jacamr/dlac069
2. George F. Sorbor, Elijah I. Nep, Comfort N. Sariem, Nenman M. Lenka, Ezekiel F. Hallie, Plenseh D. Paye, Maxwell P. Dapar, Kajali Kangar. (2022). Impact of Structured Medication Review Services on Hypertension Treatment Outcomes in Two Nigerian Teaching Hospitals: An Interventional Study International Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Research 24(3) 211-225. www.ijppr.humanjournals.com
UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES
ULCHS Holds Ideation Orientation for Aspiring Health Entrepreneurs
Ahead of a three-month long course, the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS), through the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) under its innovation program: Health Entrepreneurship Advancement Leveraging Research (HEALR), held a one-day orientation seminar for the course’s entrepreneur participants.
The ideation course runs from October 3 to December 12, 2022, and is intended to assist aspiring entrepreneurs to develop
innovative solutions to health problems/challenges in Liberia. The course will expose participants to strategic approaches to identifying, researching, and developing solution-oriented ideas as an entrepreneur. Participants will gain knowledge, practical skills, and attitudes essential in building good leadership for operating a successful enterprise. The course will also provide a suitable and conducive environment for participants to exchange ideas, share experiences and engage in peer-to-peer learning.
During the Ideation orientation, Dr. Angela Benson, Deputy CEO of Benson Hospital in Paynesville, urged young women to follow their goals and not be deterred by public perception if they are to contribute positively to the change needed in Liberia. “As females, there are many challenges out there for us, but you have to push to achieve your goals. You must be disciplined, set your goal, focus, and follow your goals. Do not be deterred about public perception if you are to contribute to the change in Liberia,” Dr. Benson stated. Mr. James Mulbah, CEO of Green Cities, a youth-based social enterprise operating Liberia’s first waste segregation and recycling center, who also served as one of the panelists at the occasion, encouraged the young people to do more volunteer work within their respective communities.
Additionally, two participants of the seminar in persons of Steve Konah, Executive Director of ‘For Beach Project,’ and Augustina L. Appleton, head of the Samuel Kanyan Doe Youth, expressed great excitement about the program and zest for becoming entrepreneurs. “I am excited by the moral lessons taught by the two panelists today. We were taught that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you must start by being a volunteer. I think this lesson is good for us, youth, because we, the young people, also place the issue of financial benefits ahead of everything,” Mr. Konah stated.
BRIDGE -U: Liberia Ends Year 1 of Implementation
USAID-funded project BRIDGE-U: Liberia, based at the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS) has completed year one of its five years of implementation with several faculty development trainings, opening of the Experiential Learning and Assessment Lab simulation center at JFK Medical Center, and implementation of two edition of
Camp xSEL, an annual health science camp for secondary school students, among other achievements.
The first year of the US$15 million five-year project involved a lot of systems set up for hiring and general startup activities and it began rolling with implementation in January 2022. It is a five-year program aimed at advancing Liberia’s national development goals in health and health sciences education.
The program is a collaboration among the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences and the United States-based Yale University, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). In June this year, BRIDGE-U Liberia held a grand opening for the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI), a public-private academic hub for research utilization, inter-professional training, innovation, and knowledge generation in Liberia. The program will also develop institutional income-generating activities and administrative systems to ensure sustainability.
In an exclusive interview, Ms. Chelsea Plyler, Project Director, BRIDGE -U: Liberia, explained that because the project had a strong design and a very strong set of plans, it hit the ground running and implemented things speedily. She said that based on the vision of Dr. Bernice Dahn, Vice President of the College of Health Sciences, University of Liberia (UL), they worked hard to position BRIDGE – U: Liberia so that it is fundamentally investing as many resources as possible in ULCHS as an institution. “What that means in practice is [a] few things. What I think about as the backbone of the project is setting up [an] administrative system inside the College,” she said.
Ms. Plyler thanked Dr. Dahn for the comprehensiveness and coherence in her strategy to build systems aimed at ensuring that projects do not just come and go. “And I think we’ve been able to make progress in all of these areas. And in year one, we’ve implemented two editions of Camp xSEL; we’ve done [a] lot of faculty development training; we’ve recruited and prepared for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” Chelsea noted. Adding the last nine months of the first year of the project was really busy and full of activities. Reflecting on the administrative system within the project, Ms. Plyler explained that the Office of Sponsored Research Services is the grand management office whose mission is to work with faculty applying for and then obtaining … grants and contracts for research.
She added that there could be other types of projects as well. According to her, it’s through research, grants, and outside funding for research and other projects, that many universities around the world pay for their faculties and sustain their operations. “And so having the systems in place to allow the College and more probably UL to become [a] successful research institution, I think it’s the backbone of what BRIDGE-U: Liberia is doing and in the long term probably the best way to help the institution thrive and have resources,” asserted Ms. Plyler.
Chelsea indicated that there will be a set of systems, people, processes, and policies in place that can keep running the program started by the project and the College more broadly in the long run. “I hope what it would mean is that there is a world-class educational institution that yes, training high quality … health workers including Doctors, Pharmacists, Public Health practitioners, Nurses, Midwives, and others,” she said.
According to Chelsea, that institution will also be generating new knowledge through research that is intimately relevant to the needs and well-being of Liberian people, and the Liberian health system, generating that knowledge and applying it to improve the health system. She continued that this means that a two-year-old child will, 15 or 18 years from now, be entering a world-class training institution and becoming a physician with skills that are on par with any other doctor in any part of the world. “And even in the meantime, that child will have access to more responsive higher quality health care as people, doctors, and others who are already in the system are getting better training or passing on the knowledge to every coming class of trainees,” she said.
Ms. Plyler looked forward to Year 2 implementation with the hope to keep pushing forward, improve upon what has been done, and launch a few new programs as well. One of the new programs to be launched is a certificate course for current policy-makers on research and evidence-based decision-making in health policy. Another program is a set of interventions aimed at building systems for continuing professional development - training of people who are already professionals.
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