Wayne Sanderson, professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in the UK College of Public Health, will travel back to Liberia at the end of the fall 2019 semester to work with University of Liberia staff to develop a School of Public Health within the College of Health Sciences and launch a new Master of Public Health degree program. The three-week visit is sponsored by the Fulbright Specialist Program, which gives U.S. academics the unique opportunity to collaborate with institutions across the globe through project-based exchanges.
Sanderson, alongside Tim Barnes, executive director of International Partnerships and Research in the UK International Center, initially visited the University of Liberia for one week in June 2019 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s U.S. Speakers Program. The visit gave Sanderson and Barnes a sense of the state of the university’s facilities and resources.
“Imagine going into a university classroom building and there are no desks, no books, there’s no glass wear for chemistry labs, and physics labs are pretty much what you might have done in eighth grade because there is no electricity in the building,” Sanderson said. This is the reality for University of Liberia staff and students.
This initial visit is what ultimately prompted Sanderson to apply for the Fulbright Specialist Grant to return to the university this semester with a new mission— facilitate the development of the public health graduate program.
“I will go back to help professors develop training materials, show them how I teach, help them develop courses, and help them develop laboratory and field exercises,” Sanderson said. He will mainly focus on developing core Master of Public Health courses in epidemiology and environmental health.
Sanderson also played a key role in providing various course materials for several public health classes, and with the help of his staff and colleagues, solicited funds and book donations that will provide hundreds of textbooks for University of Liberia students.
The biggest donation came from the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia, who provided $14,000 to purchase 200 new textbooks for four graduate-level courses: Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Introduction to Epidemiology and Advanced Epidemiology. Sanderson has collected an additional 400 used textbooks from his UK public health colleagues that will be included in the shipment.
All of the books were being collected and housed at the International Book Project before shipping to Liberia, they eventually also added to the shipment several more boxes of basic, college-level STEM texts they have on hand, to supplement the resources at the University of Liberia’s libraries. The 28 boxes of books were sent out to Liberia on Friday, October 4.
The need for well-trained public health practitioners in Liberia is great, given ongoing epidemics, as well as emerging chronic health issues, according to Sanderson. Facilitating a public health program will not only impact the University of Liberia staff and students, but also Liberia as a whole.
“Our engagement with the University of Liberia continues a long-time UK tradition of capacity-building efforts around the world, and will hopefully lead to long-term connections between UK faculty and students and counterparts in Liberia,” Barnes said. “In an increasingly interconnected global community, these sorts of activities are a natural extension of our traditional land-grant mission.”