Liberia: UL, USAID Boost Health Entrepreneurship



-Provides US$50k to innovative winners

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided US$50k to scores of innovative health entrepreneurs to help boost their businesses. 

The beneficiaries are  members of the first cohort of the University of Liberia (UL) and USAID collaborative program known as the Entrepreneurship Advancement Leveraging Research Program (HEALR). 

USAID's fund is its way of empowering entrepreneurs as well as celebrating the latest milestones in the health sector through the HEALR initiative, whose primary objective is to instruct and mentor aspiring health entrepreneurs.

The program is also meant to help the entrepreneurs launch new products and services that will improve the health of Liberians and strengthen the health board. The donations were made to the health entrepreneurs at a closing ceremony on Tuesday, July 18, in Monrovia.

Dr. Plenseh Paye McCain, the Deputy Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) said at the event, "We are delighted to celebrate the first cohort of the Creation program with this closing ceremony, awards, and dinner." "Around this time last year, Bridge-U supported ULCHS in launching the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation. This Center houses various programs that enrich academic activities at the college, to strengthen the health workforce pipeline and ultimately the health system."

McCain indicated that "these programs range from faculty development and research projects to clinical simulation education, and the activity that brings us here today remains health innovation and entrepreneurship."

She said the participants were eager to learn and lauded the judges for taking up the time to select them.

Also in attendance was Emily Sheldon of the African Health Innovation Center. She praised the participants for their commitment to the program. 

"Every single day, you have shown commitment and dedication. You made a real change in the lives of your family and the community. We are so inspired by your commitment to solving problems, said Sheldon.

Jenna Nickerson, a CIMIT Team member, told the participants, "we have enjoyed working with you in the last six months. You have a real opportunity ahead of you and use it wisely. Each team shows different strengths and it is such an opportunity for them. They came up with an idea of what they wanted and they printed pictures of what they wanted to do."

Former Health Minister, Dr. Bernice Dahn, praised the participants for “changing the narrative in the health sector.”

"In the health sector in Liberia, we are business oriented. It is a notion that once you have graduated you want to work. Even when we do business it is just a small one and the job is the bigger one and if we did not get paid then we go on strike but I want to say thank you for your service and continue your good work," Dr. Dahn added.

Leelah J. Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of Leo Nutrition and 1st Place Prize Winner of the program, said with the knowledge and funds provided, they are poised to compete with anyone on the market. 

"Before starting this program, I had ideas, but compared to the knowledge gained now. However, I want to thank Mr. Dennis pushed me very hard, and today I want to thank everyone," Clarke, who won the prize of US$20,00, said.

Mr. Clarke attributed the knowledge gained and winning of the 1st place prize award to his commitment and dedication, especially the engagement of his mentors throughout the nine months. 

"During the course, we had to meet Tuesday and Friday but there were days that we had to work excluding our meeting days and even overtime. I think the issue of money is a big thing but most importantly, we all are equipped with the knowledge to do better and expand," he stated.

Clarke expressed gratitude to the mentors for the level of mentorship offered during the program and assured the University of Liberia and USAID of putting more energy into the process.

Meanwhile, HEALR program consists of three phases: three-month-long ideation, six-month-long creation, and yearlong implementation.

It is part of the USAID-funded Bridge-U: "Applying Research for a Healthy Liberia" project at the University Of Liberia College Of Health Sciences.