Liberia’s Ebola Hero (Czar), Cllr. Tolbert Nyenswah, will on Monday, May 22, 2023 be inducted into the 2023 Omega Public Health Society, Alpha Chapter in the wake of the conferral of a degree of Doctor of Public health (DrPH) from the prestigious John Hopkins University, Baltimore, U.S.A.
By Rodney D. Sieh & Ekena Wesley
In a letter dated Monday, April 24, 2023 in the form of an email from Lilly D. Engineer, a fellow DrPH 08, MD, MHA, and President of the Delta Omega Alpha Chapter, addressed to Dr. Nyenswah, reads in part: “good afternoon, Tolbert, heartiest congratulations! I am delighted to inform you of your acceptance for induction into the Alpha Chapter of the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. “We are impressed and inspired by the remarkable resilience that you have shown in the face of numerous challenges for the past years, and your leadership to respond to ongoing and emergent global health concerns.”
The Alpha Chapter, was first founded at The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in May 1924. However, the Delta Omega is now a national public health honor society that recognizes and supports the development and attainment of excellence in academic, research, scholarship, and practice in the field of public health. Delta Omega can induct no more than 5% to 10% of the graduating class in any one academic year. Eligibility criteria for Delta Omega induction is based on three critical things: (1) academic achievement and/or potential for scholarly activities (2) leadership experience and/or potential (3) extracurricular and future career plans (4) Recommendation letters from two persons, including a faculty member/advisor and a person who is familiar with the inductee’s academic, leadership and service activities related to the field of public health.
At an epoch-event, the Bloomberg School’s 2023 Convocation Ceremony will be held, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at 9:00 a.m. ET at the Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus. The ceremony will honor students with conferral dates in August 2022, December 2022, and May 2023 for the first time in-person ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s convocation speech will be delivered by Liberian-born, American Dr. Raj Panjabi, a Physician, Professor, epidemiologist, entrepreneur, and public servant who received his MPH from the Bloomberg School as a Sommer Scholar in 2006. He currently serves as Special Assistant to President Joe Biden and Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the White House National Security Council.
Essentially, an integral part of the competitive process, Tolbert’s Dissertation and Academic Advisor, Dr. Bill R. Brieger, Professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, said “Tolbert is an incredible professional. In addition to his academic sojourn and response responsibilities, Tolbert recently contributed to the development of an open source contact tracing course. during the COVID response. Dr Nyenswah also helped Harvard University to develop a Crowd-sourcing surveillance course on high pathogen diseases including COVID-19 and Ebola for capacity building in disease surveillance. I’m confident he deserves this award.”
Similarly, in his letter of recommendation to the Delta Omega Alpha committee for the prestigious international recognition as a Delta Omega scholar, Mr. W. Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Former Minister of Public Works of Liberia, said, “as demonstrated by his leadership and accomplishments, Dr Nyenswah is uniquely qualified to be considered and inducted as a 2023 Delta Omega member. His international expertise and experience in fighting some of the world’s most serious disease epidemics, along with his leadership and service skills, makes him an ideal personality. I strongly recommend him as a Delta Omega member.”
Liberia’s former Public Works Minister, Moore, further recounts: “during the horrific period of our nation, Liberia’s history, I was special assistant and deputy chief of office staff to President Ellen Johns Sirleaf. Tolbert and I worked closely together and halted the Ebola epidemic. I was later appointed as the Minister of Public Works of Liberia. Tolbert went on and led the establishment of Liberia’s First National Public Health Institute after the Ebola crisis and became its First Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He was appointed 3 times and Senate confirmed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in various cabinet positions and continues to advise President Sirleaf on global pandemic response initiatives.
Tolbert Nyenswah, LL.B., M.P.H., DrPH, is a faculty within the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is an internationally recognized legal scholar and a global public health expert. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins University, he was the Deputy Minister of Health of Liberia, Director General/Chief Executive officer of the National Public Health Institute, and the Assistant Minister of Health of the Republic of Liberia during the administration of President Ellen Johns Sirleaf.
He specializes in health policies, health systems strengthening and public health emergency preparedness and response, advising on incident management system functionalities. He has been engaged with several public health emergencies, including as the incident manager of the 2014–2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Lassa Fever, Zika, meningitis, and COVID-19. Some of his major contributions to the COVID-19 response include developing a contact tracing course. The course is used in all US 50 States, Departments of Health, and translated in Subtitles: Chinese (Traditional), Arabic, French, Portuguese (European), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Vietnamese, Korean, German, Russian, Indonesian, English, Spanish, Nepal. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been interviewed by multiple African, North American, Asian, European, and South American media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Hill, Business Insider, Bloomberg, USA Today, NPR Radio, BBC, VOA News, World Economic Forum, The Philadelphia Inquirer, VOA Africa, The New Yorker, STAT, and Politico.
In an interview with Dr. Nyenswah he’s quoted as saying, “first, I’m thankful to God Almighty and my family. Second, I’m delighted, thrilled, and expressed my gratitude to the 2023 Delta Omega Alpha committee for my preferment. Third, my appreciation to my Academic and Dissertation Advisor, Dr. Bill Brieger, and Mr. W. Gyude Moore, my colleague and friend, for their trust and recommendations. Lastly, what I experienced as Incident Manager leading Liberia’s unprecedented Ebola response, plus my involvement with the United States and global COVID-19 response has reshaped my focus on tackling future global public health epidemics and humanitarian crises. I’m looking forward to contributing to health systems strengthening, resiliency, preparedness, and response to future public health threats.” Dr. Nyenswah, in 2018 was awarded a five-year, BSPH Dean’s academic excellence scholarship for his doctoral studies at John Hopkins School of Public Health.
According to Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, Dean, and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, “The Bloomberg School has again been named the #1 public health school in the nation by our peer schools and this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings. Our School has held the top spot since the rankings began in 1994. There are now 206 accredited public health schools and programs, and it is an honor to again receive this recognition from our peers.”