A Global Health Champion
Global Health, MPH ’22
“Professors are eager to help you grow academically and professionally. Before I came to Rollins, Dr. Leon called me and spoke to me about the available opportunities here.”
A global pandemic and civil unrest surrounding the U.S. presidential election couldn’t deter Bernard Owusu Agyare from his desire to attend Rollins in person in January 2021.
“Every country has its own challenges. In person, the relationships I can build with the academic world is far different from if I took the program entirely virtually. There are issues in every place, and you have to look through a positive lens and move forward,” says Agyare.
Growing up in a developing country, Agyare says he dealt with one infectious disease or another at varying stages of his life. “From childhood, I developed a passion to see improvement in the health conditions of my family. But as I grew older, I realized that this passion transcended my family into my community, country, and the world at large.”
Agyare’s interest in global health grew when he worked with the United Nations’ mission in Liberia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, respectively. Initially a public health officer with the Ghana Armed Forces, Agyare was deployed as a platoon commander in these operational theaters, and his peacekeeper role focused on helping these countries transition from civil war. Through these experiences, Agyare was involved in a number of humanitarian operations. When the Ebola outbreak emerged, his job quickly evolved to ensure UN troops and others were following public health protocols for their personal safety.
“With my firsthand experience of how infectious disease impacts citizenry, and how health infrastructures can become overwhelmed and collapse easily, I became more motivated to study public health, specifically global security, infectious disease, health systems strengthening, and complex humanitarian emergencies,” says Agyare.
Familiar with Emory for its impactful work during the Ebola outbreak and wanting to take his education to the next level, Agyare applied to Rollins. “I wanted to go into global health; health that transcends boundaries.” Of his experience thus far, Agyare commends the caliber and rigorous nature of the academic programs; the diversity at the school; and the support available for international students including from his academic advisor, Theresa Nash.
“Despite the physical distance, I don’t feel like I’m far from home. Rollins is like home,” he says, noting the global student body. “We share ideas and everyone’s ideas are highly respected. I’ve made great friends from different backgrounds who I learn from. I am constantly challenged to become a better person each day.”
Agyare also finds the accessibility of the professors, such as Dr. Scott McNabb and Dr. Juan Leon, remarkable. “Professors are eager to help you grow academically and professionally. Before I came to Rollins, Dr. Leon called me and spoke to me about the available opportunities here. He also organized thesis boot camp sessions in the spring term that helped demystify thesis writing.”
In the spring of 2021, Agyare secured a Rollins Earn and Learn position that allowed him to intern with The United Methodist Church in its global health unit, where he worked on the global health program, Imagine No Malaria. He was thrilled to be charged with making country-specific program guidelines and recommendations for software upgrades to improve the monitoring of malaria drugs among partners in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Agyare aspires to use all of his experiences to pursue a career in global health security, including infectious disease prevention, detection, and surveillance. He is still contemplating whether his next step will be a PhD program.
“My ultimate goal is to go back to Ghana and Africa at large to contribute to health security systems in the areas of infectious diseases prevention, detection, and response; workforce development; and health systems strengthening.”