Closing Remarks at the Emmet A. Dennis 2nd Annual Scientific Conference

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As I indicated in my printed statement in the conference brochure, I am humbled and blessed that this absolutely necessary conference, that honors me, is not a post-mortem event. The value and benefits of the two conferences so far cannot be overly exaggerated.

I am really flabbergasted by the success of the two conferences, particularly, the broad based and continued support from the sponsors, including the Center for Disease Control under the leadership of the progressive, Dr. Desmond Williams,  the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases and PREVAIL, led by the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Cliff Lane, Africa Bio, FHIClinical, GIZ, the Joint West African Research Group (JAWARZ),  the Ministry of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah USAID. Ministry of Agriculture, WHO  not to mention the key implementing organizers,  the National Public Health Institute of Liberia under the leadership of the incredible Honorable Tolbert Nyensuah, the Liberia Field Epidemiological Training Program and Network (AFENET), represented by Dr. Naame Amo-Addae, and the University of Liberia, under the dynamic leadership of  Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks.

In fact, at one point, given that which I perceived as the relatively high financial cost of the first annual EAD scientific conference, and in the light of the current financial crisis in our Country, I did not think a second conference would be possible this year.  I sort of alluded to this in one of my emails to Dr. Mosaka Fallah, who assured me that planning for the second conference was on course.

The work horses of the conference, including the Scientific, Logistics/Secretariat, and Information Technology and communication committees, headed by Dr. Peter Adewuyi, Faith Whesseh, and Joseph Wiah, respectively have performed a marvelous task making this conference a successful reality.

I am particularly pleased that many young people are attending and presenting at this conference. I would like for these same embryonic scientists to come back next year with much more upgraded presentations.  The learning experience here, both as presenters and audience, I think, has been an indelible scholastic opportunity.

Something about the birth of the EAD Scientific Conference. As the commencement speaker of the 2016 commencement of the T.J.R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology of the University of Liberia, when Dr. Mosoko F. Fallah announced that NPHIL would establish a national scientific conference in my honor, I took it with a grain of salt because I know, at my age and experience, many dreams do not become realties. I am pleased that when the University of Liberia/University of Indiana and University of Massachusetts Medical School joint grant that brought Dr. Mosoka Fallah to Liberia, expired, I told him that he wasn’t going anywhere. The rest is history.  I find Dr. Fallah to be a really committed and highly productive scientist. Thank you Mosoka.

Thank you Dr. Boley, not only for a substantive presentation here yesterday, but for facilitating the naming of the Emmet A. Dennis Molecular Biology Laboratory at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research.

Dr. Clift Lane, your research organizational acumen in establishing a genuine reciprocally beneficial research unit here in Liberia is incredible. As I indicated, I constantly refer to PREVAIL as a collaborative model. Thanks, so much to you and your team.

Dr. Desmond Williams, CDC did a fantastic job during our Ebola crisis and is an indispensable pillar of NPHIL for which you deserve adulation.  I still want to be like you when I grow up.

Dr. Massaquoi’s role as a senior scientist in the region will soon become legendary.  Thanks for your indispensable scientific leadership.

You know as I observed the current productive competence of some of our current Liberian biomedical scientists and workers like Dr. Soko Morris, Dr. Boley, Dr. Steve Kennedy, Miata Gbanyi, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Kieh, Dr. Dekontee Dennis, Dr. Johnson, etc., I am assured that in our country, the competent will not be the available but the available will be the competent.

Dr. Johnson, when you were giving introductory remarks representing PREVAIL, I thought about your pathetic plea in my class as a medical student which resulted in my bringing a human skeleton in my suitcase to replace the broken down half skeleton at the medical college. Today, your position at PREVAIL is a testament of your astute professional determination and accomplishments.

You know, when Honorable Tolbert Nyenswah talked about our initial relationship, he was modest about my admiration for the level of excellence at the Malaria Control Unit at the Ministry of Health, where he played a pivotal role as a deputy with the late Dr. Joel Jones. The competence of the MOH’s Malaria Control Unit resulted in the awarding of the prestigious and internationally competitive President George W. Bush’s President Malaria Initiation. Dr. Joel Jones knew quite well that the success of a leader is dependent on the qualitative productive profile of members of her/his team.   The role of Honorable Nyenswah in the current reduced status of the overall prevalence of malaria, as well as the current controlled status of Ebola in our country are very commendable.  The accomplishments of a leader are dependent upon the qualitative productive profile of each member of her/his team.  A chain is as strong as its weakest link.

You know, at our first plenary session two days ago, Our Vice President of Liberia, Honorable Jewel Howard Taylor,  in her inspirational remarks, called for GOL’s consideration for research funding.  This is great. However, I have watched the career of the Vice President with admiration and appreciation. As a law student at the University of Liberia (UL) during my tenure as President, she stuck me as being very studious with an obsession with self-development irrespective of her political positions.  As a Senator and Vice Chair of UL Board of Trustees, her performance was exemplary. Thank you much Madam VEEP for the appreciation roses, my real first experience.

It is our wish that the critical and unique research collaborations exemplified in the hosting and presentations at the two conferences will continue along the lines of reciprocal benefits and sustainability such that results will not only constitute and add knowledge but will inform policies, both nationally and internationally.

The fact that Ebola disease research, including vaccine trials, carried out in Liberia by US & Liberian scientists now benefits Ebola endemic countries attests to the value of reciprocally beneficial collaborations.

On another issue…. My dear people, our country has been developing for over 170 years and we continue to be developing. How long do we intend to be developing? Are we the never grown-up child? Our status of continuous dependency in a rich resource environment is untenable and must end.   Therefore, while there is ‘Research and Development’ in the industrialized world, our modus operandi in Liberia must be ‘Research for Development.’ International begging must come to an end and be replaced by that which President Tolbert called self-reliance.

Funding for ‘Research for Development,’ as indicated above, must be a national agenda. We, in this country, have implemented too many flawed projects and policies because they were not informed by the results of systematic research.  ‘Research for Development’ has got to be our sine-quo-non. 

Mr./Madam Presiding Officers, as I sat through presentations at this conference, I noted that a relatively significant number of organizations were involved in or sponsoring public health research with a relatively high level of collaboration and cooperation.  The relatively high level of coordination, collaboration and cooperation that exists among institutions cited in the program documents of this conference is very laudable.  We applaud NPHIL for its chartered coordinating responsibility for biomedical and public health research in our country.

Finally, I find it incredible to have this conference, the Emmet A. Dennis Scientific Conference. Then, there are the Emmet A. Dennis Molecular Laboratory at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, and the Emmet A. Dennis College of Natural Sciences at Cuttington University.  What a blessing!

Thanks to all of you for making all of these possible and let’s make this valuable conference a reality in perpetuity.

Emmet A. Dennis, Ph.D.
Professor, A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, University of Liberia
President emeritus, University of Liberia
Department Vice Chair, Dean, Associate Provost, Vice President emeritus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A
Founding Director, the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research

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