By Fatoumata Njei
A Liberian student at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States, Ambulai Johnson, has been awarded the Outstanding Academic and Leadership Award by the faculty and students. Ambulai graduated among the top 10 of his class, thereby also awarding him the Delta Omega Award for academic excellence.
“I am very happy to be recognized and receive these awards. Several months ago I was very worried about how I would complete my studies when my tuition could not be paid, but thanks to Dr. Ellen J. MacKenzie, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Dr. Marie Deiner West, Dr. David Peters and many others that I was awarded a scholarship by the Johns Hopkins University which enable me to complete my studies in Public Health,” said Ambulai Johnson in an elated voice.
Ambulai, who graduated among the top of the Class of 2020, was a self-supported student when he enrolled at the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health program about two years ago. He later experienced financial hardship and many interruptions of his studies when the government of Liberia did not fulfil its promise of paying his tuition through a World Bank Scholarship program at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL).
“Ambulai is a very determined student who will contribute to public health globally and serve as an example to young people in our society; he deserved all the help for his advancement and we are glad about his academic and winning these recognitions and awards from the Johns Hopkins University,” said Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, a prominent infectious disease expert and Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at Shufflex Biomed. He added that, “we have to educate and develop our young professionals in every area of national life to prepare them for a better future.”
On his part, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, currently a Research Associate at the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that, “the world needs public health leaders like Ambulai. I am proud of him and Liberia should be proud of its son.”
During his studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Ambulai maintained a 3.8 to 4.0 Grade Pont Average. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was founded in 1916 and is one of the world’s premier Public Health Institutes which is leading the way in advanced research, education and practices that create practical solutions to public health problems around the world.
Ambulai, a self-supported student, received admission to the JHU Bloomberg Public Health program about two years ago and enrolled with money he earned from working at odd jobs after graduating from college. Having entered the JHU program, he has proven himself to be academically studious and hardworking in various public health activities in the school amidst financial hardship.
Awarding the scholarship, the Dean of the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Ellen J. MacKenzie, said, “we are happy to be of help and we are glad to have him [Ambulai] here at Johns Hopkins” as the faculty have spoken very highly of him, adding that “we just have to find a way to provide more of these scholarships” to needed students of high academic excellence as “we [Johns Hopkins] want to extend our reach to Africa; that’s our dream to be able to do more of this.”
For several months Ambulai’s studies were interrupted due to the lack of tuition to continue course work when the Liberian government through the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) failed to make good on its promise to pay the tuition through a World Bank/WHO fund. Ambulai was among several students vetted and accepted for a World Bank sponsorship program during the administration of former Director General of the NPHIL, Tolbert Nyenswah. But, the NPHIL under the new administration did not make the tuition payment after Mr. Nyenswah’s departure from the NPHIL, thus “leaving the student in limbo.”
During his short time at the JHU, Ambulai Johnson, a “straight-A” student, utilized knowledge and skills acquired to analyze a complex of epidemiology data for the NPHIL from the Lassa fever virus outbreak that was occurring in Liberia shortly before the Coronavirus-2 outbreak. Also, he was president of the African Health Initiative of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health which organized public health outreach programs targeted at Africa and disadvantaged communities.