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BRIDGE-U: LIBERIA

UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES

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CENTER FOR TEACHING, LEARNING AND INNOVATION

EDITION I  

NEWSLETTER 

SEPTEMBER 2022

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Panel Discussion at the Grand Opening of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Innovation, June 21, 2022

L-R: Wilhelmina Jallah, MD, Minister of Health; Rachel Idowu, MD, Country Director, US Centers for Disease Control; Kristina Talbert-Slagle, PhD, Assistant Professor, Yale School of Medicine; Bernice T. Dahn, MD, Vice President for Health Sciences, Executive Dean for the College of Health Sciences, University of Liberia. 

MAJOR TRANSFORMATION AT ULCHS

The University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS) is undergoing major transformation as the institution invests in building systems across its schools. During the launch of the new ULCHS Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI), Dr. Bernice Dahn, University of Liberia Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean of ULCHS, reflected on the College's progress.

CTLI is a public-private-academic hub for research utilization, innovation, inter-professional training, and knowledge generation. Its programming includes:

  • Faculty development trainings (including in pedagogy, mentorship, team-based and case-based learning strategies);

  • A secondary school program, Camp xSEL, designed to prepare young Liberians, especially girls, to pursue higher education in science;

  • An Experiential Learning and Assessment Lab (ELAB) offering clinical simulation training to students and practicing clinicians;

  • Innovation programs aimed at identifying, cultivating, and supporting entrepreneurs to develop commercial applications for research;

  • A Certificate in Evidence-Based Health Policy for current policymakers;

  • Faculty-student teams conducting research on how to translate research outputs into impact while building research utilization skills.

In her presentation at the CTLI Grand Opening, Dr. Dahn explained that reform of ULCHS requires significant investment. She lauded the transformational investment to the College through BRIDGE-U: Liberia, a USAID initiative promoting research utilization across the health sector and recognized some of ULCHS's partners: Yale University and Vanderbilt University, among others. 

Dr. Dahn highlighted important administrative achievements, including the establishment of a financial management office within the College along with an Office of Sponsored Research Services, noting "this office supports faculty members and students with research administration and grant writing." 

Dr. Dahn detailed that the medical school, guided by its five-year strategic plan, recently launched a reformed curriculum with a 7-year post-secondary school pathway for a Medical Doctor (MD) degree. "Our curriculum has moved away from faculty-centered to students-centered training. We've also started developing our faculty," she added. The pharmacy school has introduced a new curriculum as well. "We've converted the Bachelor of Pharmacy to a Doctorate of Pharmacy, and the Faculty were also converted in terms of training," she said. Further, Dr. Dahn indicated that the first cohort of the Masters in Public Health (MPH) program established at the University of Liberia graduated this past year. "We have a very good MPH program that is competitive in any place," she said. 

Dr. Dahn also reflected on the University's recent bridge program that allowed practicing nurses and midwives to upgrade their diploma-level training to a Bachelor’s degree through two years of University courses. This program ran for five years and has now been phased out in favor of introducing a four-year direct-entry BSc program for midwifery students. In the long term, Dr. Dahn looks forward to introducing Master's level training for midwives and nurses.

 

"So the College of Health Sciences is beginning to take shape," said Dr. Dahn. As CTLI, and other systems continue to be built and strengthened, the future of ULCHS indeed looks bright. 

 
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Select Pictures of Guests, Speakers, Donors, University Community & Press at the CTLI Grand Opening

 

NEWLY-OPENED ELAB TO DELIVER STATE-OF-THE-ART TRAINING TO CURRENT AND FUTURE CLINICIANS 

The University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS) Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) launched the Experiential Learning and Assessment Lab (ELAB) clinical simulation space at JFK Medical Center on September 6, 2022. The ELAB provides an environment to build learners' clinical skills, as well as their teamwork and communication. These critical competencies are essential to curb the number of preventable deaths in the country.

The ELAB opening honored the late Liberian gynecologist Dr. Samuel G. Bowman. Before his death in December 2020, Dr. Bowman provided healthcare services to the women of Liberia and was credited with assisting the highest number of childbirths in Liberia of any clinician during his long career. He served as a teacher and mentor to generations of Liberian doctors. 

 

During the launch, Dr. Hawa Sonii Koon, CTLI Deputy Director, ELAB, explained that in recent years, the number of health professions training institutions has increased in Liberia. However, the quality of training has been variable, and building evidence-based competencies and developing confidence remains a challenge: "Simulation is needed for health professionals to get the required practical skills to reduce preventable deaths. For a health professional to develop their skills, they need a high-fidelity clinical environment. . . the ELAB provides that environment."

ELAB Stakeholders Tours New Facility R-L Jerry Brown, Hawa Sonii Koon, Bernice Dahn, Rose

ELAB Stakeholders Tour New Facility and View SimBaby manikin, a high-fidelity infant patient simulator

R-L Jerry Brown, MD, CEO of JFKMC; Hawa Sonii Koon, MD, CTLI ELAB Deputy Director; Bernice Dahn, MD, Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Liberia; Rose Macauley, MD, Aaron Burr, Program Analyst, USAID; Sr. Barbara Brillant, Dean, Mother Patern College of Health Sciences

In this environment, trainees are taken through clinical scenarios and tasked with responding to life-like situations in real-time. “Scenarios are an expert experience. So you have someone who has passed through an experience, and he uses his experience to write a scenario like a play and places the learner in that same situation, and the learner learns through that scenario and becomes better,” Dr. Koon added.

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Unveiling ELAB Signage by Samuel G. Bowman Family

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BRIDGE -U: Liberia Project Director Chelsea Plyler delivered remarks at the ELAB opening.

Mr. Isaac T. R. Dolo, ELAB Coordinator, described the vision for the lab to be an internationally-accredited center where future and current clinicians can gain practical knowledge and develop skills to improve their clinical practice.

 

The opening of the ELAB is part of the ongoing transformation of the UL College of Health Sciences. Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, UL Vice President for Health Sciences, recalled that since 2019, the University has positioned the College to be a world-class training center in health sciences, with the goal of being among the top 20 universities in Africa. Dr. Dahn reflected that during her school days as a medical student, they did not have the opportunity to practice procedures or rehearse clinical scenarios as many times as is required to master a skill. Now, the ELAB features manikins that react like human beings, and complex simulation scenarios that teach trainees important skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication, in addition to evidence-based patient care techniques.

 

The ELAB will serve the growing inter-professional student population at ULCHS and other training institutions, as well as licensed clinicians. The UL Vice President explained that the university is starting with a small program, but the dreams are big. “Our plan is to build a simulation lab where you’ll have a surgical unit where you can practice skills before you get in the OR [Operating Room],” said Dr. Dahn.

The ELAB represents a multi-institutional partnership. BRIDGE-U: Liberia Project Director Chelsea Plyler remarked: “Many of you participated in fundraisers a couple of years ago, and the construction you see on the campus today is directly funded by donations from the Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) and the AMD [medical school] Alumni Association." The two high-fidelity manikins currently installed at the ELAB were procured through the PEPFAR/HRSA-funded Resilient and Responsive Health Systems Initiative, and the ongoing management of the ELAB is supported by the USAID-funded BRIDGE-U: Liberia project.

Mr. Aaron Burr, USAID Program Analyst, said he was very excited to be a part of the opening of the ELAB. Mr. Burr described the ELAB as a great opportunity for the BRIDGE-U: Liberia program, noting his excitement to see how it develops and impacts training at ULCHS and beyond.

 

INNOVATION SEMINAR INSPIRES PARTICIPANTS TO TRANSFORM HEALTHCARE THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP 

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) within ULCHS has unveiled its flagship innovation program: HEALR (Health Entrepreneurship Advancement Leveraging Research). HEALR is a year-long training and mentorship program that provides early-stage entrepreneurs with business management skills and mentorship from leaders in the field. The program was announced on June 22 as part of the CTLI Launch at the Center’s inaugural Health Innovation & Entrepreneurship Seminar.

 

The first-of-its-kind seminar at ULCHS convened innovators, entrepreneurs, and healthcare professionals (some of whom double as ULCHS students and faculty) for pragmatic lectures and interactive office hours.  At the seminar, Mr. Simmie Nyanfor, CTLI Innovation Coordinator, explained that entrepreneurship is a strategic activity for CTLI to promote research utilization through the commercialization of innovative research findings.

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Michael Dempsey, Accelerator Executive, BRIDGE - U: Liberia, presents Business Economics to Liberian innovators at the June 22, 2022 seminar  

The Innovation activity aims to accelerate healthcare solutions, with its foremost goals to improve patients' lives, grow the economy, and strengthen the local health system. Nyanfor explained, "The program provides tailored support to budding entrepreneurs within the field of healthcare.”  The HEALR program is structured into four parts. First, CTLI will host events, ranging from educational seminars to networking events with investors and potential customers. The next is the Ideation course, in which participants learn fundamental business skills and develop and refine their business idea. The third stage is the Creation course, where entrepreneurs work with a dedicated mentor to craft a viable business plan, set short- and long-term objectives, and anticipate and plan to mitigate risks. He added that at the end of the third stage, participants have the opportunity to receive funding. Finally, graduates of the Creation course will be supported through an Implementation phase with ongoing mentorship and connection to investment opportunities.

Introducing HEALR at the June seminar, Mr. Nyanfor disclosed that the program presents a dynamic opportunity and serves as a platform to develop early-stage ideas into viable businesses. It also provides a platform for participants to access resources and expertise. . To design and deliver these programs, CTLI has partnered with the U.S.-based Consortia for Improving Medicine with Innovation and Technology (CIMIT) and iLab Liberia, a local tech hub. The program also leverages knowledge that faculty, clinicians, and industry leaders bring to the table as mentors, further enriching the efforts of participants to launch their businesses. 

The HEALR program is open to all - ULCHS students and faculty are encouraged to apply but is not limited to those already affiliated with ULCHS. “It is a program for everyone who wants to learn ideas and build their startups into successful businesses to better the health of all Liberians," Nyanfor explained. 

 

ULCHS ELAB TEAM COMPLETES TWO-WEEK KNOWLEGDE SHARING VISIT WITH KIJABE HOSPITAL SIMULATION CENTER 

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R-L  Issac T. R. Dolo, ELAB Coordinator; Hawa Sonii Koon, MD, CTLI ELAB Deputy Director; and George W. Monibah, ELAB Technician attend simulation training at Kijabe Hospital, Kenya 

In modern medicine, simulation training presents a formidable instrument to prepare future healthcare professionals for the challenges associated with practice. The University of Liberia College of Health Sciences, with support from USAID under the Bridge-U: Liberia Project, sponsored a three-person ELAB (Experiential Learning and Assessment Lab) team for a visit to Kenya's Kijabe Hospital for two weeks of intensive training on Simulation. The team also visited leading medical Centers in Nairobi – Ahga Kahn University Hospital, and Kenya Medical Training College. The team included CTLI Deputy Director for ELAB, Dr. Hawa Sonii Koon, ELAB Coordinator, Mr. Issac T. R. Dolo, and ELAB Technician  George W. Monibah. 

ELAB is CTLI's clinical simulation education program with the core objective of training clinicians to competently and confidently provide patient care, using lifelike manikins and other training tools to mimic different clinical scenarios.

The trip exposed the team to simulation education systems, the simulation center structure, and processes, as well as how to create scenarios and develop and implement simulations. The team was also trained to work with the equipment, including how to assemble and disassemble the manikins. After the two weeks of training, the ELAB Team returned to Liberia, excited and equipped with information and knowledge to improve ELAB's capacity to manage simulations.

 

FRONT ROW TO CAMP xSEL, AS SENIOR COORDINATOR SHARES HER EXPERIENCE

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Camp xSEL Coordinator Sydell Goll  with Campers Jilo B.  Nipeh and Alfreda H.  Collins   

Sydell Goll: In January 2022, I joined the BRIDGE- U family as the Faculty and Student Learning Senior Coordinator. As a student learning coordinator, one of my primary responsibilities is to plan Camp xSEL, a science camp for secondary students. Camp xSEL stands for Excellence in Science Education for Liberia. The Camp xSEL program is designed for eleventh and twelfth graders who love the sciences and are interested in choosing a career path in the health sector. For Camp xSEL 2022, our main aim was to be inclusive by recruiting students from all fifteen counties in Liberia. 

In Maryland, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Rivergee, Rivercess, Gbarpolu, Cape Mount, and Bomi counties, we recruited four campers (two males & two females). For Bong, Margibi, Bassa, and Lofa, eight persons each were recruited with equal representation of gender. From Nimba, second to Montserrado in population, ten persons were recruited, while Montserrado, the biggest school district, has twenty-two students selected, for a total of 100 campers.

For our recruitment exercise, the country was divided into four regions, with Region One being Maryland, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Grand Kru, Region Two represented Nimba, Lofa, Bong, and Margibi, Sineo, Bassa, and Rivercess represented Region Three and Region Four was Bomi, Gbarpolu, Cape Mount and Montserrado. Members of the BRIDGE-U: Liberia team were sent to these regions simultaneously for the recruitment, working with the County Education Officers (CEOs) and their teams to conduct the recruitment. The recruitment exercise included a written test and an oral interview. The CEOs offices worked with their district-level counterparts and school administrators to nominate the students who participated in the recruitment process. 

 

The camp was hosted at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Paynesville, just outside of Monrovia, with all one hundred (fifty-one females and forty-nine males) campers from all fifteen counties being represented. Camp instructors were science teachers from the University of Liberia, and ten public school science teachers recommended by the Ministry of Education served as co-instructors. All these teachers were trained in pedagogical skills and assessment methods.

Our teachers are encouraged to make their classes engaging and learning fun and enjoyable. The campers are fed three times a day and engaged in extracurricular activities like critical thinking games, quizzing, debates, workshops, motivational talks, and also practice various soft skills needed to thrive in today's world. 

For me, the most amazing part is seeing our first-time travelers' experience. For some campers, it was their first time in Monrovia, and for some, it was their first time riding a plane. Our campers from the southeast flew to Monrovia on Mission Aviation Fellowship, a small plane, due to the bad roads. You should have seen the excitement on these young people's faces! As part of the camp activity, on Saturday, the 13th of August, we took our campers on their first field trip to the city of Monrovia to visit historical sites and monuments. Their smiles and wonder were amazing. For me, what is most satisfying is giving these young people the experience of a lifetime that would go a long way with them. Nothing beats the joy of mentoring and coaching the next generation of leaders and health care providers.

 

CAMPERS TOUR HISTORICAL SITES 

One hundred campers from all fifteen counties in Liberia attending Camp xSEL (Excellence in Science Education for Liberia) visited monuments and historical sites in Monrovia on Saturday, August 13th, 2022, as part of Camp xSEL activities. The students visited the J.J. Roberts Monument, Matilda Newport Canon, the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, National Museum, the Capitol Building, Temple of Justice, University of Liberia's Capitol Hill campus and midwifery skills lab, and JFK Medical Center. 


The field trip allowed campers to experience many places they read about in their history books. For some campers, it was their first time in the City of Monrovia, and it was mind-blowing visiting these historical sites. Sites that stood out were the visit to the Temple of Justice, where our campers were excited to see the statue of Justice and take pictures with her, and also the visit to the midwifery skills lab at UL.  

 

Camp xSEL is a four-week intensive science camp for secondary school students with talent and passion for the health sciences. Its vision is to inspire and prepare students to pursue higher education and careers in the health sector, engage critically with the topics they learn, and foster lifelong learning. By emphasizing best pedagogical practices, the camp also improves university and secondary school instructors' teaching skills, providing benefits far beyond the length of the camp. Camp xSEL: Excellence in Science Education for Liberia is a University of Liberia College of Health Sciences program as part of its USAID-funded BRIDGE-U: Applying Research for a Healthy Liberia project. 

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Campers at the historic landmark of Liberia’s first President Joseph Jenkins Roberts on Ducor Hill in Monrovia.