Team of faculty headed to Liberia to work and celebrate

UMMS staff dedicated to improving healthcare for impoverished nation

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

January 13, 2012
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On a previous trip to Liberia, Donna Gallagher, co-director of global health, far left, talks with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, second from left. Also pictured is Katherine Luzuriaga, associate provost of global health, second from right.

A team of UMass Medical School faculty is traveling to Liberia to celebrate the start of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s historic second term and to continue working on the Medical School’s longstanding commitment to rebuild the West African country’s health care system. 

The visit comes five months before President Johnson Sirleaf travels to Worcester to deliver this year’s UMMS commencement address.

“President Johnson Sirleaf has devoted her life to promoting peace while rebuilding Liberia and she has made great strides toward that goal in her first term,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “As we applaud the president on her re-election and for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, we will reaffirm that our great public medical school remains committed to advancing the health and well-being of her nation.”

Devastated by civil war, Liberia has only about 100 physicians and 1,000 nurse midwives to care for a population of about 3.5 million people. UMMS doctors have spent considerable time in Liberia over the past three years, working alongside and teaching a new generation of health care workers in collaboration with the Health Education and Relief Through Teaching (HEARTT) program.

UMMS is also working with the University of Liberia and the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, along with Indiana University, to establish the Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences, which will offer academic and research programs in biotechnology, public health, nursing and pre-clinical training in medicine and pharmacology.

“These partnerships and projects will allow us to make significant strides toward the goals of sustainably rebuilding the Liberian health care system and providing quality health care for all Liberians,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine and associate provost of global health.

Johnson Sirleaf, the first and only elected female head of state in Africa and co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, won the Nov. 8 presidential run-off election. She was sworn in to office on Monday, Jan. 16.

Several UMMS faculty will be in Liberia for the festivities and to continue their work there, including: 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; Donna Staton, MD, affiliate in pediatrics; Jackson Williams, MD; Christopher Wilbert, MD, emergency medicine resident; and Dr. Luzuriaga. Marcellette Williams, PhD, senior vice-president of international relations for the University of Massachusetts, is joining them. Mariah McNamara, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of the international emergency medicine fellowship program, spent this week in Liberia on the project.

“We are eager to welcome President Johnson Sirleaf to Worcester and serve as our commencement speaker,” Collins said. “Her presence will stand as a testament to the important work our faculty and students do in Liberia and around the globe.”


Related links on UMassMedNow:

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