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UMMS faculty witness history in Liberia

Doctors attend inauguration; meet President Johnson Sirleaf

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

January 26, 2012
  UMass Senior Vice President Marcellette Williams and University of Liberia President Emmet Dennis signed a renewal of the memorandum of understanding between the two universities.

UMass Medical School faculty lauded Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on her re-election last week, after attending the historical inaugural festivities in West Africa.

“We congratulated Madame President on her re-election and on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and thanked her for accepting our invitation to be our commencement speaker in June,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine and associate provost of global health.

Dr. Luzuriaga and UMMS colleagues spent the week in Liberia, continuing efforts to help rebuild the civil war-torn country’s health care system. The trip coincided with the start of the second presidential term for Johnson Sirleaf, the first and only elected female head of state in Africa. She travels to Worcester this spring to deliver the keynote address at the Medical School’s 39th Commencement exercises on June 3.

“We attended the inauguration and an inaugural ball on Monday (Jan. 16) and felt privileged to witness history,” Luzuriaga said. “President Johnson Sirleaf’s speech was inspirational. She’ll be a fantastic commencement speaker.”

Johnson Sirleaf met with Marcellette Williams, PhD, senior vice-president of international relations for UMass; Donna Gallagher,APRN, co-director of global health; Marianne Felice, MD, chair and professor of pediatrics; Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric global medical education; and Luzuriaga on Wednesday, Jan. 18, to discuss the strides UMMS has made in Liberia over the past three years.

UMMS doctors have spent a lot of time working alongside and teaching new health care workers in collaboration with the Health Education and Relief Through Teaching (HEARTT) program. UMMS is also partnering with the University of Liberia (UL) and the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, along with Indiana University, to establish the Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences with funding from USAID.

During this trip, UMMS faculty cared for patients at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia and held meetings with UL President Emmet Dennis and other top university officials. Dr. Williams signed a renewal of the memorandum of understanding with UL to continue working together. Faculty in pediatrics, including Drs. Felice, McQuilkin and Donna Marie Staton, MD, affiliate in pediatrics, also visited Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, where the HEARTT program has begun to establish a second site for medical student, intern and resident training in pediatrics.

Related links on UMassMedNow:

Team of faculty headed to Liberia to work and celebrate
Nobel Peace Prize winner to give 2012 Commencement address
Nobel Peace Prize winner has strong ties to UMMS
Launching medical education studies in Liberia
Medical School team rebuilding health care in Liberia
Library projects lending order to chaos in Liberia