This is the inaugural newsletter for the College of Health Sciences. Continue scrolling for recent news from the School of Public Health, College of Medicine, and School of Pharmacy.
MPH Practicum: Ensuring students have practical, workforce-ready skills upon graduation
All MPH students are required to partake in practicum experiences with different institutions in the Liberian health sector or the international global health community. Our inaugural cohort of students has begun to undertake diverse practica--from conducting formative research on a public health mobile application to contributing to the world’s first free MPH program with NextGenU to supporting a needs assessment for the upcoming National Health Policy. Here are a few quotes from our students about their experiences:
Antoinette Wright, Applied Epidemiology Concentration
“From just reading and trying to understand the Community Health Workers Program to conducting and transcribing interviews done with key stakeholders in the National Community Health Assistant Program in Liberia at the National and Community levels has been an amazing life time experience. Moreover, my skills in qualitative research has improved greatly and my professional network has expanded.”
Establishment of a Research Lab on Social-Behavioral Risk Factors of Disease in the Liberian Context
This lab is directed by Dr. Wahdae-Mai Harmon-Gray and is aimed at undertaking research around non-communicable diseases (NCDs), nutrition, maternal mortality, and environmental health with a focus on risk factors. The complex interplay of different social and behavioral factors that affect our communities create syndemics, whereby certain subgroups of the population may be at greater risk of illness or death due to preventable causes as a result of poor access, social inequities, and other disparities. We use qualitative and other approaches to understand the issues in communities. The data we collect is, in part, intended to advise other labs at UL SOPH on contextual factors/drivers and the theoretical or conceptual models that may explain them.
Strengthening Infection Prevention and Control Protocol amongst Health Workers at 14 Facilities in Bong County
Dr. Keith Gray and Dr. Momo Tegli, both Chevening scholars and volunteer instructors at the MPH were awarded a grant by the British Government to ensure robust adherence to IPC protocols in Bong county. In addition to providing training, supervision, and technical support, the project delivered relevant IPC materials to each of these facilities to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
UL SOPH to Partner with the National Malaria Control Program on a Research Study
After a rigorous selection process, the MPH program has been chosen to implement a mixed-methods study on Intermittent Presumptive Treatment (IPT) during pregnancy in three counties. This 6-month project presents an opportunity for several MPH students to take part; they will be exercising robust research methods that have been taught over the last two semesters in courses such as Epidemiology, Data Management, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Biostatistics. Instructors with experience in qualitative and quantitative research methods will supervise the process and ensure quality is achieved. We are eager to contribute to a project with potential for malaria policy impact.
Upcoming Short Courses:
Building Capacity in Biostatistics and Statistical Software
The University of Liberia School of Public Health (UL SOPH) in partnership with a local, research-focused nonprofit (Q4D Lab) will be offering a series of short courses on coding in R Statistical Software. Using statistical software to conduct robust analyses is a core competency our MPH students are developing as part of their Biostatistics and Data Management courses. To offer insight into the value of statistical software and to provide a strong foundation for more advanced analyses and high-quality statistical outputs, UL SOPH Associate Professor Laura Skrip has developed the following hybrid short courses:
Beginner R for Public Health Practitioners and Researchers in Liberia
Biostatistics I (with intermediate R) for Public Health Practitioners and Researchers in Liberia
Data Visualization in R
Mathematical Modeling for Public Health Practitioners and Researchers in Liberia
Visit the Q4D Lab website for information on prerequisites (including an assessment of basic computer skills), course schedules, and tuition.
Exposing Public Health Challenges in Liberia
The UL SOPH hosted a contest to bring to light different public health issues that we face everyday in Liberia. During the week of May 31-June 11, social media followers took photos capturing public health challenges in Liberia and posted them to our Facebook page using hashtags #ULSOPH, #ULSOPHphotocontest, and #PublicHealthChallengesLIB. The winner of the contest received a cash prize, and will be featured on our website. All contest rules are available on our Facebook page.
COLLEGE OF MEDICINE UPDATES
Approval of Revised Medical School Curriculum
The AM Dogliotti College of Medicine curriculum has been revised to address critical gaps identified as part of a needs assessment. To develop the revised curriculum, working groups were formed with Preclinical and Clinical Faculty, including national and regional faculty, and a Curriculum Literacy Review was undertaken to consider best practices in medical education from WAHO, Nigeria (Lagos, Portharcourt & Benin), Ethiopia (AAU & Jimma Medical Schools), US (Yale & Vanderbilt Medical Schools). The curriculum provides a seven-year pathway to a MD, which is a reduction of two years from the previous curriculum.
It reflects a move away from lecture-based, didactic instruction and toward student-centered, team-based, inquiry-based, active learning. Of note, students may leave the pathway after completing the pre-med and pre-clinical tracks with a BSc and pursue other career options. At all steps in the pathway, students will be trained to be efficient, confident and proficient in Preclinical Sciences, Public Health as well as Clinical Medicine. They will undergo continuous Assessment (Formative and Summative) and experience rigorous mentorship to optimize chances of success. The curriculum was approved by the UL Faculty Senate and is slated to commence next academic year.
SCHOOL OF PHARMACY UPDATES
Establishment of the PharmD Program
To train pharmacists in line with the West African Health Organization (WAHO) mandate, the School of Pharmacy underwent approval processes of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) Curriculum in 2019. Regional consensus had determined that the undergraduate training of pharmacists should transition to a professional doctorate degree program PharmD of no less than six years in duration.
After its approval, the implementation of the Curriculum was conditioned to the Faculty being upgraded to PharmD level so they could then teach Liberia’s Bachelor of Pharmacy (B. Pharm) holders. In the 2018/2019 Academic Year, School of Pharmacy faculty members enrolled at the University of Benin, Nigeria, and subsequently graduated on February 22, 2020. To facilitate the full faculty conversion in Liberia, a Special Conversion Curriculum was approved by the University of Liberia in 2020. This academic year, the University is facilitating the conversion of 14 other faculty members, while initiating the PharmD program for students.
The School’s PharmD program combines rigorous basic science education with extensive and varied clinical experiences so that graduates will be prepared to contribute to revolutionizing the future of health care through new discoveries and innovations to improve patient lives. In addition to continuously enhancing the curriculum with new course offerings that reflect the pharmacist’s importance as a frontline health care provider, the School of Pharmacy PharmD program incorporates problem-based learning, a vast range of clinical opportunities, invaluable networking opportunities and a series of electives that allow students to personalize their education to reflect their individual interests and professional goals.
Collaboration with the United States Pharmacopoeia
The School of Pharmacy is in positive collaboration with the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP). Initial discussion has already taken place to identify areas where USP can provide capacity building. The School has earmarked three priority needs:
Trainers of Trainers in Pharmacovigilance, Quality Control/Assurance, Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Laboratory Practice
Laboratory equipment, reagents and chemicals
Postgraduate Diploma Programs in Pharmacovigilance, Quality Control/Assurance, Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Laboratory Practice. The School is eager to pursue the collaboration as it further develops.
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University of Liberia, College of Health Sciences
July Edition, 2021