Leadership Lived: Public Health Major Aderonke E. Adewuyi’s  Journey From U.S.A to Ghana, West Africa


Aderonke Adewuyi journey began after five (5) months of preparation from UIS MPH department. These meetings introduced her and the six (6) other students to the research topics involved (Water Quality Testing, Screening for Hypertension and Diabetes and Hepatitis C ) as well as introduction to the African culture and the Ewe language. Students were made aware of the hygiene and sanitation of the research environment in the Hohoe area in Ghana. This 2018 trip to Ghana was the sixth study Abroad trip lead by Dr. Josiah Alamu, Chair of the Department of Public Health. On June 4th, the delegation left for Ghana, West Africa and returned to the U.S. after seven(7 ) weeks, on July 24, 2018.

Adewuyi, a native of Nigeria, felt that since she was from Africa, she knew what to expect but the culture was much different coupled with the scarcity of supplies and resources to carry out the research projects. She had to learn quickly to adjust to her environment. The team completed a community entry training which exposed the students to the importance of respecting community Elders and Leaders by first introducing themselves and communicating what the goals and objectives of the research are and how these will benefit the community.  Once the leaders gave their consent to the research projects, the hard work began. The UIS MPH students collaborated with a team from the University of Health and Allied Science, School of Public Health (UHAS).  She participated in three(3) types of research projects.

Water Testing

The team was divided into four (4) groups consisting of 4 to 5 people in each group. Within each group, was an administrator, who distributed the questionnaires. Two people were responsible for collecting the water samples from the households as well as conducting the chemical tests(nitrate, chlorine and ph) on site, an interpreter and the observer. These individuals were rotated each day within different groups and they followed the same routine all throughout the seven(7) communities including, Likpe Todome, Wli-Afegame, Zongo, Fodome-Ahor, Santrofi-Gbodome. Another group was tasked with taking water samples from the community to the lab for testing. All these were done within the period of two weeks.

Hypertension and Diabetes Screening

Adewuyi reports that after two weeks of water testing, we had the diabetes and hypertension screening training which informed the students on how to take blood samples from finger pricks, handle blood and rightly use the sphigometer and glucometer. For this phase of the research work, students roles within the group but not the group members. Within each group, there was an interpreter who administered the consent form and the questionnaires, while one person measured the blood pressure, another took the blood glucose while someone else took the weight and measured the height of participants. This was repeated over and over in the seven communities.

Tourist Attraction

Weekends were always a treat for Adewuyi and the team. They socialized with the locals and experienced the Ghanaian culture. They visited caves, waterfall, Elmina Castle in Cape Coast region, Monkey Sanctuary and also visited one of the tallest mountains in Ghana. The visit to The Elmina Castle was very emotional for her. It was a painful and heart-felt experience.  The tour guide  shared the horrible experiences that Blacks endured at the hands of the Dutch, Portugese and English masters during the slave trade.  She made friends with her team mates from Ghana and this made her adjust to the new life in Ghana. They took her to some good restaurants where she tried some of the local dishes and enjoyed going to the local bars, drinking and dancing with friends on weekends.  Soon, culture shock was non-existent and after long days working in the fields, she felt at home, in her beautiful,  and safe apartment. The accommodation consists of private bathroom, kitchen, refrigerator and TV.

Suggestions For Future Trip

Adewuyi recommends use of the same university accommodation and the number of students remain the same. Access to a bus for transportation of the team was invaluable for access to the communities from campus. Also, students having cheap public transportation was a great alternative. However, the journey from Hohoe to Ho where the laboratory was situated was hectic and tiring due to the rough roads and hilly climbs.

Students should subscribe to the Red Vodafone plan in order to access the internet and make international calls to friends and family, with unlimited text and browsing. However, there is free Wifi and internet available on campus at the UHAS.  Adewuyi was pleased with the professional supervision received  from the three(3) professors, who made sure the students were safe and kept together. Faculty listened to students’ concerns and complaints and attended to them.  Although she recommends having student mentors instead of faculty mentors, since students relate better with persons of their own age group.  And finally, she recommends having an introductory party or some kind of ice-breaker to introduce students before the commencement of any research work. That way, students could relax and have a smooth transition when they work together. The MPH department thanks Aderonke Adewuyi for sharing her experience with others.

Leadership lived: Public Health major plans to use theatre passion to educate others

Christopher Vemagiri Marbaniang, a graduate student at the University of Illinois Springfield, hopes to combine his two passions, public health and theatre, to educate people about important health issues.

“I plan to use my skills as an actor and education in public health from UIS to promote health through theatre and TV shows, such as documentaries or film after I graduate from UIS. I believe the best way to communicate health is through entertainment,” he said.

Vemagiri Marbaniang was recently part of the UIS Theatre production of “Machinal” and has appeared in three other productions at UIS. He says theatre and acting have always been a passion for him.

“What I love about theatre is that you can invoke emotion in people and you convey a message when you use your body, your face and your words to inspire people or tell a story through a character that you play,” he said.

At UIS, Vemagiri Marbaniang is treasurer of the Student Government Association, chair of the Student Organization Funding Association, a senator on the UIS Campus Senate, vice president of the UIS Public Health Club, a worship leader for the University Bible Fellowship, member of the UIS Mock Trial team and has served as a host for the International Festival since 2015.

Vemagiri Marbaniang also interns with the Office of Health Care Regulation at the Illinois Department of Public Health through the UIS Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI).

“What brought me to UIS is the Graduate Public Service Internship Program, which is a very unique program,” he said. “This program has given me the opportunity to work with a state agency downtown and it is in sync with my major.”

Outside of UIS, Vemagiri Marbaniang has worked as a motivational speaker campaigning for healthy living and has rallied against drug and sexual abuse in children, teenagers and young adults. He also has a YouTube Channel where he posts motivational talks about life lessons. He also blogs about beauty pageants and has mentored contestants in public speaking and confidence.

Vemagiri Marbaniang, who was born in India and calls Alabama home, says he’s glad he chose UIS and encourages other students from around the world to consider the university.

“UIS is a small campus, however it is the small campus that gives you a great opportunity to learn more because of the focus that people have on you. You can focus more on your skills and on your instructors and professors can help you hone your skills to become a better professional,” he said.