Students from 15 countries graduate international master’s program in public health

Pears Foundation consultant Dina Gidron (fourth from right) with Pears Scholars (from left) Olasanmi Sunday Olusegun (Nigeria), Ally Ahmed Ramadhan (South Sudan), Beverly Mademba (Kenya), Babatunde Olaiya (Nigeria), Moses Barima Djimatey (Ghana), Brice Kamnang (Cameroon) and Simon Kaddu Ssentamu (Uganda)19 September 2011: The annual graduation ceremony of the Hebrew University’s international master’s in public health program (IMPH) at the Braun Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine is one of the most diverse — and this year was no exception. At last week’s joy-filled ceremony of the 36th graduating class, held at the University’s Ein Kerem medical campus, 19 students from 15 countries — Cameroon, Canada, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan, Uganda and the US — marked the culmination of their studies.

The audience of enthusiastic well-wishers included several ambassadors as well as family members, teachers and fellow students. Keynote speaker was IMPH alumnus (2000/2001) Dr. Alexey Bobrik from Russia, one of his country’s leading public health pioneers who, until recently, served as executive director of the Open Health Institute (OHI), a leading NGO in public health in Russia.

Class president Maytal Rand and Pears Scholar Dr. Olasanmi Sunday Olusegun spoke on behalf of their classmates. Other speakers included Faculty of Medicine Dean Prof. Eran Leitersdorf, Braun School head Prof. Orly Manor, Director of the Hebrew University’s Division for Development and Public Relations Joseph Benarroch, Hadassah National President Marcie Natan, Hadassah University Medical Center Director-General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef and a representative of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation MASHAV. The students also sang a medley of Hebrew and African songs.

As every year since the program's establishment, all of this year’s IMPH students from low-income countries received full scholarships, including eight African students who were awarded scholarships by the UK-based Pears Foundation. During the event, IMPH program director Dr. Yehuda Neumark welcomed a new gift from the Pears Foundation that will enable a major expansion of activities for IMPH alumni. These will include seminars and workshops to be held at the Braun School and in Africa, as well as seed grants for research projects.

“My experience in Israel was exceptional,” said Pears Scholars Dr. Brice Kamnang from Cameroon. His work back home as an internist and then as a chief medical officer, he said, had helped him realize that “most of the diseases affecting the Cameroonian population were communicable and preventable… and that the changes in lifestyle and fast globalization are accelerating the emergence of non-communicable diseases.”

The IMPH program, said Kamnang, “met my expectations and even went beyond. Through the lectures, group work and the regular seminars, I was able to acquire all the skills I had hoped to acquire, network with public health professionals from different parts of the world and I am even learning how to publish in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, I am officially a Jerusalem Pilgrim, thanks to the rich trips organized by the program to major historic sites.”

Dr. Kamnang plans to continue to work for the Ministry of Public Health on his return home and will most likely be promoted at the district or regional level. “My aim is to invest my efforts in the prevention of obesity-related non-communicable diseases. During my stay here, I designed a couple of projects and research proposals in that direction and I have no doubts that at least one of them will be initiated as soon as I get home. Because there is no development without research and education, my second aim is to get involved in the training of public health officers within my country and to realize population-based studies of cardiovascular diseases and their determinants.” 

For Fellow Pears Scholar Ally Ahmed Ramadhan from South Sudan “the last one year has been one of the most intense periods academically and, at the same time, spiritually enriching for me. Not only have I managed to acquire the tools that I so desperately need to help improve people’s health, but I have also managed to experience firsthand the overwhelming kindness, compassion and enthusiasm of the Jewish people whom I didn't know much about. The experience is truly humbling and it will be something I carry with myself for the rest of my life.”

Ramadhan, who previously worked for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, said that while he is unsure as to what he will do on his return to the newly created Republic of South Sudan, “my experience in Israel has taught me one thing: Everyone needs to do their part in the process of development. And so I go back home with the hope that I will play my part in improving the health of South Sudanese using the wealth of knowledge and exposure I have attained from this model nation, that had a humble beginning under difficult circumstances similar to South Sudan.”
This year’s graduates included two students who completed the class of 2009/10 but remained at the Braun School for a further year in order to pursue exceptionally challenging thesis projects they had undertaken in preparation to enroll as doctoral candidates at the Braun School. They will join the 14 IMPH alumni who are currently pursuing doctoral degrees at universities in Israel, Europe, the US, Canada, Russia and Australia.

Many IMPH graduates assume key local, national, regional and international positions on their return home. They include Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, the national coordinator of the World Health Organization in Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji’s secretary of health, other government ministers, hospital directors and professors at schools of public health

Over 700 healthcare and related professionals from 90 countries have graduated the IMPH since its inception in 1970. The program harnesses Israel’s long-term and broad experience in community medicine in order to help healthcare professionals throughout the developing world and among emerging economies tackle public-health challenges and create a healthier world. The program, whose philosophy is rooted in community-oriented primary care, builds on the students’ basic knowledge and experience by offering specialized courses in such topics as epidemiology, health economics and administration, organization and evaluation of healthcare services, and sociology of health and illness.

To view speech by IMPH class president Maytal Rand, click here.

To view speech by Dr. Olasanmi Sunday Olusegun on behalf of the Pears Scholars, click here.

To view IMPH students singing, click here.