$7.2 million project will address a national shortage of health-care workers in Liberia

October 31, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University today (Oct. 31) announced that it is partnering with the University of Liberia and the University of Massachusetts Medical School to administer a transformative $7.2 million project that will address a national shortage of healthcare workers in Liberia, an African nation with which IU has had long-standing ties.

The partnership will implement the Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences (CEHLS) at the University of Liberia (UL), which will develop new academic and research programs in biotechnology, public health, nurse-midwifery and pre-clinical training in medicine and pharmacology.

Funding the project is the U.S. Agency for International Development through Higher Education for Development (HED).

"Indiana University and the University of Liberia have produced well-outlined, comprehensive project objectives to improve Liberia's healthcare education," said HED Deputy Executive Director Jeanne-Marie Duval. "Their work to develop new undergraduate courses in health and life sciences will contribute to Liberia's important rebuilding efforts. These talented partners are prepared to train faculty and students, enhance educational institutions, and support healthier communities."

Dr. Emmet Dennis, president of the University of Liberia, will provide UL leadership for the project. The project being led by IU will be managed by its Center for International Education and Development Assistance, directed by Charles Reafsnyder, and at UMMS by Katherine Luzuriaga, associate provost, and Donna Gallagher, co-director, Global Health.

Partnership discussions between IU, UMMS, and the University of Liberia since 2008 have led to the development of a multi-disciplinary consortium of educators and health practitioners, which will include the IU School of Nursing, the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and staff of the IU Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), which has been working since 2006 with UL's Dogliotti School of Medicine, JFK Memorial Hospital and HEARTT in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, will support implementation of a new curriculum through faculty development and library services support. UMMS will also partner with JFK Hospital, Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts and the IU School of Nursing to develop nurse leadership and training programs.

"Liberia is emerging from nearly two decades of civil conflict that not only killed 270,000 people but also ravaged the nation's standards for health and well-being," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "This project will help a nation already restoring standards of justice, equality and human rights to also rebuild its ability to care for the most basic medical needs of many of its citizens.

"Indiana University's lengthy and productive partnership with our friends and colleagues in Liberia now takes on even deeper meaning as we support an effort that will save lives," McRobbie said .

"What this grant represents is a culmination of the excellence in the interaction that has occurred between the two American universities and the University of Liberia," added UL President Dennis. "This grant is substantial and will go a long way in terms of strengthening our life and health sciences, something that is indispensable to the health of the nation. It is a model of collaboration between institutions in the developed world and in the developing world. It's not often you find such models, and I think other institutions have a lot of learn from the model that has been established from this collaboration."

At the end of its civil war in 2003, Liberia's population of more than 3 million had less than one health care worker for every 1,000 people and had only 103 doctors in the entire country.

In 2008, the government of Liberia, in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund and other stakeholders, developed a roadmap, called the Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy, which included expanding access to basic health services. These include focuses on maternal and newborn care, child and adolescent health and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS and HIV.

With assistance from the grant, CEHLS partners will work together to address these needs and rebuild the University of Liberia's capacity for education and training in the health sciences. Much of the grant will provide degree training for medical and nursing students, who ultimately will become educators, and hire new full-time teaching faculty at UL.

With assistance from the $7.2 million grant, CEHLS partners initially will focus in the first two years on the following objectives in Liberia:After the war, several buildings at the University of Liberia, including its natural sciences building, were used to house refugees and were stripped bare of resources. The grant supports other efforts to renovate the facilities and includes the acquisition of a medical library from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Reafsnyder, also an associate vice president in the IU Office of International Affairs, said that more than 80 percent of biology faculty at the University of Liberia lack advanced degrees beyond the bachelor's degree.

"The shortage of health care workers means that a significant percentage of the population will continue to have limited access to health care and social welfare services unless action is taken to develop the country's health workforce," he said.

"Indiana University has a long-standing history of international engagement, which is designed not to benefit us, but designed to build institutions in parts of the world needing assistance. It goes back to Herman Wells' pivotal role in establishing the Free University of Berlin at the end of World War II," said David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs. "In this case, we also are seeing how much our involvement with Liberia has been deeply valued."

IU has a long history of research interest and involvement in Liberia, which have provided many faculty members and students with an opportunity to directly engaged in things that they about. Claude Clegg, professor of history at IU Bloomington, and the late Gus Liebenow, professor emeritus of political science, have published extensively on Liberian history and politics. IU has the world's leading collection of Liberian documents.

In 2008, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 7, visited the IU Bloomington campus and received an honorary degree. Amos Sawyer, former interim president of Liberia, is a research scholar with the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU.

IU alumni are key players in the project. Dennis, president of the University of Liberia, received his master's of biology degree from IU and Wvannie Scott-McDonald, head of UL's School of Nursing, is a graduate of the IU School of Nursing.
-end-
More information about U.S. Agency for International Development is available at http://www.usaid.gov/. To learn more ahout Higher Education for Development, go to http://www.hedprogram.org/.

Indiana University

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