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UL students to compete for UCSF scholarship

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Dozens of health sector students at the University of Liberia (UL) are expected to compete in a rigorous vetting process for two scholarship slots at the University of California, Sans Francisco (UCSF) in the United States of America, following official launch of a UL – UCSF scholarship program this week.

Through the scholarship program launched in the auditorium of the A.D. Dogliotti Medical College in Congo Town, 6 November, UCSF in collaborating with UL and other institutions, will provide training opportunities for Liberian scholars in the health sector.The UCSF infectious disease training program for Liberian students is aimed at helping to support sustainable high quality research across Liberia in finding solutions to health care needs here which could also be extended to the needs of the future generation.

Two finalists are expected to be selected for the program which is due to begin at the end of July 2020.UL is partnering with UCSF, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), USAID, National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the NIH, among others.

Excited by the launch of the program, University of Liberia Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research Dr. Jonathan C. Taylor says one cannot [rule out research] when talking about development, whether in the area of health – in terms of identifying and solving problems – or whether it is in other areas of economic and social development.“So at the University of Liberia we are very anxious and very excited when we are able to be a part and to partner with … friends like from UCSF and other institutions in bringing into being programs and institutions that will help enhance the development of Liberia,” Dr. Taylor says.

He thanks all those who have contributed towards the program, saying UL is fully supportive of the initiative.Dr. Taylor says he believes that framework is in place both at the Ministry of Health and at the University of Liberia to ensure that students return after their studies, an apparent effort to alleviate fears by other speakers that students might abscond studies to stay in Sans Francisco.

Deputy Health Minister Matthew Tulay assures that the Ministry of Health will be a part of the vetting process to ensure that the wrong candidates are not selected.Also touching on concerns raised about students absconding studies, Minister Tulay notes that as part of the vision statement normally as a requirement for admission in foreign universities, students would assure that they will come back and resolve the problem in their communities.

Mr. Tulay believes that anyone who successfully completes his or her area of study will not desire to remain in a foreign land.“So unless you can really contribute to the solution of the problem of your community, you have not fulfilled, you have not succeeded in attesting or let say affirming your research statement,” he says.In a PowerPoint presentation earlier, UL Vice President for the College of Health Sciences Dr. Bernice Dahn says over the past years, discussions have been ongoing about how clinical research can be sustained in Liberia.

According to Dr. Dahn, if you are researching information on Liberia today, you will get a good bit of it, emphasizing that a good bit of that came through PREVAIL network since its Ebola research started.In order not to let this die down, Dr. Dahn indicates that discussions have been held on ways to sustain research activities through training and deploying people to build the systems here.

To reform the entire medical training in Liberia, Dr. Dahn explains that there was a decision made in 2018 to develop a strategic plan which includes designing a seven – year training program for students out of high school, compared to nine years program [as was done in the past].
She says this is based on six pillars which include curriculum reform, faculty development, clinical training and research, financial planning and sustainability and campus planning.

Dr. Dahn details that they are also reforming the school of pharmacy, disclosing that the first cohort is already in session.According to her, BSc and Master’s in Clinical Training Programs have been introduced, all of which are supported by partners.UCSF Representative Madam KrysiaLindan says applications will be evaluated by a committee that combines people from here or collaborating institutions and UCSF. After making determination of the finalists, she says the program will begin at the end of July 2020.

USAID Rep. Dr. Fatma A. Soud says strengthening clinical training with good quality mentorship and support of the health management system should be made a priority in strengthening the health system.NPHIL Acting Director General Dr. MosokaFallah admonishes that the way to sustain the research activities is for the young [Liberian] scientists to build strong collaboration and then go for grant. He pledges NPHIL’s commitment in supporting the research.By Winston W. Parley

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