Liberian Student, Ambulai Johnson Gets Prestigious Johns Hopkins University Public Health Scholarship — Dr. Nyan, Nyenswah and Faculty Instrumental

By Our Reporter (Contribution by F. Njei)

BALTIMORE, 10. 06. 2020 – A smart Liberian student in the United States, Ambulai Jorkey Johnson, has received a scholarship from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to continue studies in Public Health at the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The scholarship was officially awarded during a recent video conference organized by the JHU with Ambulai and his mentors and faculty members who helped arrange the scholarship opportunity.

Ambulai, a self-supported student, received admission to the JHU Bloomberg Public Health program about two years ago and enrolled with money he earned from working at odd jobs after graduating from college. Having entered the JHU program, he has proven himself to be academically studious and hardworking in various public health activities in the school amidst financial hardship.

Awarding the scholarship, the Dean of the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Ellen J. MacKenzie, said, “we are happy to be of help and we are glad to have him [Ambulai] here at Johns Hopkins” as the faculty have spoken very highly of him, adding that “we just have to find a way to provide more of these scholarships” to needed students of high academic excellence as “we [Johns Hopkins] want to extend our reach to Africa; that’s our dream to be able to do more of this.”

For several months Ambulai’s studies were interrupted due to the lack of tuition to continue course work when the Liberian government through the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) failed to make good on its promise to pay the tuition through a World Bank fund. Ambulai was among several students vetted and accepted for a World Bank sponsorship program during the administration of former Director General of the NPHIL, Tolbert Nyenswah. But, the NPHIL under the new administration did not make the tuition payment after Mr. Nyenswah’s departure from the NPHIL, thus “leaving the student in limbo.”

“So, Tolbert Nyenswah and I (through my biotechnology start-up company – Shufflex Biomed), along with some faculty members, Dr. Marie Diener West and David Peters, had to intervene and strongly advocate for a possibility and opportunity for the young man [Ambulai] to continue his studies,” said Dr. Nyan in an interview with reporters after the program. He added that “we are therefore thankful to the Johns Hopkins University on behalf of Liberia and Africa as a whole for this opportunity for Ambulai to continue his studies in public health.”

During his short time at the JHU, Ambulai Johnson, a strait “A” student, utilized knowledge and skills acquired to analyze a complex of epidemiology data for the NPHIL from the Lassa fever virus outbreak that was occurring in Liberia shortly before the Coronavirus-2 outbreak. Also, he was president of the African Health Initiative of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health which organized public health outreach programs targeted at Africa and disadvantaged communities.

“I want to thank the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health for this scholarship opportunity to continue my studies; I am so grateful again and thank you [Dr. MacKenzie] ever so much for granting me such a great opportunity and scholarship that will enable me to serve my community and the global community at large; your generosity has inspired me more to help others and give back to the society and community in saving millions of lives,” Ambulai joyfully expressed.

Also thanking the JHU administration, Tolbert Nyenswah, an Alumnus of and current Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, added that “those of us from low to middle-income countries … when you train one person you have trained about 100 persons, because that person goes out to train several others in their home country, and this is what you [Johns Hopkins] has done.”

At the close of the program, Dr. Nyan presented a typical Liberian (West African) carved wooden snap-finger hand-shake to the authorities of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, stating that “this is a symbol of Liberia’s and Africa’s gratitude and appreciation for students trained by the institution over the years in Public Health,” he said.  The wooden carving is to be displayed in a show-case at the JHU.

Founded in 1916, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is one of the world’s premier Public Health Institutes which is leading the way in advanced research, education and practices that create practical solutions to public health problems around the world. The school has been a major resource of cumulative epidemiology data during this present COVID-19 Pandemic and a source of materials and course on Contact-Tracing, a work to which Tolbert Nyenswah’s Ebola outbreak experience contributed.

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