US: Liberian Immigrant Wins Prestigious Academic Award

From Moses D. Sandy In The United States|
Dr. Augustine Manneh Sumo

Liberian immigrant with residence in the United States of America (USA), Dr. Augustine Manneh Sumo, is the 2017 winner of the acclaimed Laureate International Universities ‘Scholar of Positive Social Change Award.

Dr. Sumo was declared first place winner of the award in June of 2017. According to Augustine, Laureate International Universities gives the ‘Scholar of Positive Social Change Award annually to Ph.D. students, who demonstrate outstanding performance in research and dissertation writing. Augustine, alias, Manneh, enrolled at Walden University, an online university, as a Ph.D. student in the year 2013. He studied Public Policy with concentration in Law. He successfully completed his doctorate program with a stupendous dissertation on the theme: Coping with the Threat of Ebola in Liberia- a case study.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
Ebola is a lethal infection caused by the Ebola virus. It symptoms typically start two to 21 days after contracting the virus with a fever, sore throat and muscle pains, and headaches. It is then followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidney, which eventually leads to bleeding. The disease is usually acquired when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal such as a monkey or fruit bat. Fruit bats are believed to carry and spread the virus without being affected by it. Once infection of a human occurs, the disease may be spread from one person to another. Men who survive may be able to transmit the disease sexually for nearly two months.

Ebola kills about 90 % of those infected, but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment. The virus for now has no cure, or vaccine. The disease first emerged in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. The infection is named after the Ebola River located in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The virus hit the shores of Liberia in February of 2014. It was reportedly transported to Liberia from Guinea, a neighboring country of Liberia in West Africa. According to media reports, the disease was initially spotted in Guinea when it hit the shores of West Africa. It later spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The virus claimed 11,000 human lives in the three West African countries. In Liberia, 4,700 human lives were lost. On May 9, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia Ebola free.

Nomination for Award
In a recent news interview, Dr Sumo said because of his outstanding research, Walden University designated him as a candidate to Laureate International Universities for the esteemed academic honor. He said following a rigorous screening process of candidates and their work, Laureate International Universities in collaboration with Walden University, declared him the first place winner of the prize. He said the academic honor comes with a one year research project on Ebola. He said Walden University offered given him the project. He said the project when initiated would focus on similar variables and issues that he studied during his dissertation study.

Research Findings
During Dr. Sumo’s research, he established that the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration was unprepared for combating the disease medically when it struck Liberia. He claimed the government had limited logistical support for dealing with the health crisis. He went on “the local and international media also, helped in the spread of the disease by creating fear and panic amongst the people”. He maintained some media institutions sensationalized Ebola related news stories.

Augustine in his study also, uncovered that Ebola survivors continue to struggle with issues of loss of appetite and employment as a result of stigma. Additionally, he showed “men who survived the Ebola disease are now faced with the problem of impotency.” Walden University will confer on Mr. Sumo his doctorate degree in February of this year. He is the first Walden University student and the second man of color to have won the Laureate International Universities ‘Scholar of Positive Social Change Award. He furthered “I am also, the first Liberian to have won such academic honor.” According to Manneh, the second, third, fourth, and fifth place winners of the award came from India, France, USA, and Canada respectively.

Mr. Sumo is 53 years old and a father of two. He is married. He currently resides in Claymont, Delaware. He migrated to the US in the1990’s to seek quality education and better life. Upon arrival in the US, Augustine enrolled in graduate school. He has two master degrees; a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix in Gardena, Los Angeles, California, and another Master in Public Health (MPH) from California University based in Fullerton, California. He was born in the obscure village of Willie Moore. The town is located in Bomi County, Western Liberia, West Africa. Bomi is one of Liberia’s 15 political subdivisions. Mr. Sumo is the third of 14 children procreated by his deceased parents, David Sumo and Feh-feh Quaye-Sumo.

Struggle for Academic Achievement
His late father hailed from Bong County while his fallen mother was a citizen of Bomi County. When he was born, Willie Moore’s village where formal English is rarely spoken, had two huts built from clay and roofed with palm thatch. There existed no school. His expired parents were poor farmers. They struggled literally to feed and educate him and his siblings. He recalled “when I was growing up, life was tough. Going to school was a challenge; my parents could barely afford my tuitions and other basic academic needs.” Despite the hurdles, Dr. Sumo recalled, he enrolled at the famous Booker Washington Institute (BWI), a technical institution in Liberia, and graduated in 1987 with a high school diploma in electrical trade. From BWI, he matriculated to the University of Liberia (UL) and graduated 1994 with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in electrical engineering.

Community Honor
In recognition of Augustine’s outstanding academic achievement, some eminent members of the Delaware State Liberian Community and the leadership of the Trinity Presbyterian Church based in Wilmington, Delaware, last December hosted a special honoring program for him. Several speakers at the program including the President of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), Jackson T. Seton, heaped praises on the honoree for a job well done. Mr. Seton represented the ALJA National Administration at the event. He said the Association like other Liberian organizations is proud of Augustine for the academic distinction bestowed on him and his native country, Liberia.

Also, speaking at the gathering, the Proprietor of the US based Liberian owned, Joshua Browne’s Poll Services, Joshua Browne, thanked Augustine for his scholarly achievement. He congratulated the honoree and urged his fellow Liberians, especially the youth to emulate his footstep in putting Liberia on the international map of achievers. He then, presented a wooden plaque to Dr. Sumo as a gift from his company for the good work done. “As a Liberian, I am extremely pleased for Dr. Sumo’s accomplishment,” Mr. Browne said.

For his part, Pastor Brad Martin of the Trinity Presbyterian Church thanked Manneh for the accolade. “Dr. Sumo, this achievement is an inspiration for other members of our church. Thank you for a job well done,” Pastor Martin spoke. He described Augustine as a resilient man, who remains positive in the midst of adversities.

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