Liberia: Public Health School to Address Growing Health Challenges
Monrovia – The University of Liberia (UL) has started an undergraduate program in Public Health Science and is also due to commence the Master’s level program next week, aimed at addressing the growing public health challenges in Liberia.
Under the University’s Medical College, the School of Public Health has 80 students in the Master’s program, and additional 25 students in an auxiliary Master’s program called Executive Program, which is designed exclusively for senior management level health practitioners unable to attend regular classes due to works in remote places.
To eliminate the challenges previously faced by students who had to commute to class from homes, the University has further moved Pre-Clinical Division students and Public Health students of the Medical School to the Fendall Campus to stay in dormitories and concentrate on their lessons.
Prior to moving these students to Fendall, the campus of the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine that was built in Oldest Congo Town only for the Medical School was hosting four other schools, thus creating physical capacity challenges there.
However, funding provided by the World Bank for the construction of new dormitories, classrooms and laboratories which the University of Liberia decided to do at the Fendall Campus has helped immensely to address the physical capacity challenge.
According to the Dean of the Medical School, Dr. Z. Sherman Adams, the move of the students on the Fendall campus is in line with the University’s plan to move the entire College of Health Sciences on its Fendall campus.
He told a recent interview that the University was fortunate sometimes last year that the World Bank provided funding for the construction of new dormitories, classrooms and laboratories.
Dr. Adams: “Moving the Pre-Clinical Division of the Medical School to the Fendall campus is the first step in moving the entire campus of the College of Health Sciences on the Fendall Campus of the University of Liberia.
“Prior to now, medical students coming to the Congo Town campus came from various places in Greater Monrovia – Duala, Mount Barclay and other areas. So coming to classes on time was a challenge for our students,” he says.
“We’ve eliminated that question of how students get to classes by the provision of the dormitory for them,” he noted.
He further said that students have embraced the University’s decision of providing them an opportunity to stay on campus and focus on their academic activities, though other students who do not desire to stay in dormitories are allowed to commute to school.
“In the near future,” he added, “if the University can obtain additional funding, additional facilities will be constructed including academic facilities and dormitories and a teaching school to move the rest of the College of Health Sciences on the Fendall Campus.”
Dean Adams notes that Liberia is one of those countries that are at the bottom of the ladder in terms of doctors-patients ratio.
“Liberia as a country does not have enough doctors for its population. We’re way at the bottom. So yes, we need to increase the number of doctors we produce annually to try to catch up to where we need to be,” he encouraged.
Dean Adams disclosed that the Government is helping by providing a monthly stipend for each of the students in the tune of US$200.
No fees are charged pharmacy and medical students for staying in the dormitories, except that a breakage fee is deducted from their allowances over a period of time, according to school’s dead.
According to Dr. Jethro Zawolo, Acting Associate Dean for the Public Health Program, the school is a unique program, saying it will help UL to achieve its objective of moving up in terms of its ranking among other West African universities.
Dr. Zawolo stated that the School of Public Health has started under the College of Medical Sciences, with academic activities commencing for undergraduate students during last year while the Master’s level program with 80 students, starts next week.
According to him, the program which was launched by the Ministry of Health and its National Public Health Institute was developed to respond to some of the critical needs in the health sector in Liberia.
Dr. Zawolo further said that certain key areas were identified including health system management, environmental health and public health laboratory, among others.
He further added that there is an auxiliary program under the Master’s in Public Health called Executive Program that is offered to allow senior management level health practitioners working in remote places to come to A.M. Dogliotti every two months to undergo intensive 10 days of lectures to catch up with lessons covered by other students.
Meanwhile, Dr. Zawolo says the School is seeking external support by applying for grants to be able to address salary of its full time faculty so as to attract qualified faculty members to the school.