Student Profile: Wilfred Geninyan Wetool Discusses Global Health Inequities Witnessed in his Home Country of Liberia and how MGHD Equipped him to Rebuild and Strengthen Health Systems
Growing up in Liberia, a nation that experienced a 14-year civil war, Wilfred Geninyan from Liberia saw many healthcare disparities. The health system of his country was shattered especially the community health system leaving it one of the most undeveloped and poor nations in the world. The Ebola outbreak struck Liberia hard in 2014, killing thousands of people and weakening the health system to the point that the country is still trying to restore it compelled Wilfred to enter the health sector in order to effect change in his country’s healthcare system. UGHE gave him a chance to interact with and learn from a diverse population both students and faculty and the fact that UGHE is affiliated with PIH helped him to learn more about the work PIH is doing in which he is enthusiastically interested in.
Even though it was challenging for him to study amidst the global crisis of Covid-19, Wilfred shares how he learned a key lesson from his MGHD that to prepare for future pandemics, robust health systems ready for any crisis are essential.
Q1. Growing up in Liberia, what global health disparities do you witness or experience and how did this inform your next step?
Growing up in Liberia, a nation that experienced a 14-year civil war, I saw many healthcare disparities. The health system was shattered, particularly the community health system, and Liberia is now one of the most undeveloped and poor nations in the world. Many individuals lack access to quality healthcare, and even those who do have access to health care may lack access to quality medications and skilled health care professionals.
The Ebola outbreak struck Liberia hard in 2014, killing thousands of people and shattering the health system to the point that Liberia is still trying to restore it. There are still people who have to walk for four to five hours to reach a nearby clinic, and on arriving, may not receive the treatment they need. Liberia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. These are issues that must be addressed because if a country does not provide quality health care to its citizens, it cannot progress. Healthcare is one of the major factors contributing to a nation’s development.; if people are generally healthy, they’ll be able to contribute to the development of their country. I felt compelled to enter the health sector in order to effect change in our healthcare system. I want to participate so that people in Liberia may receive excellent and equitable health care since people in cities have greater access to healthcare than those in rural regions, and support in the fight to decrease the mortality and morbidity rates in Liberia’s rural areas.
Q2. What made UGHE stand out to you?
UGHE is a wonderful institution with the feel of an international university due to the variety of its students and instructors. I realized that by studying at UGHE, I was able to learn from both students and faculty, as well as some of the staff because they all represented different backgrounds and experiences. Another feature that makes UGHE stand out to me is its affiliation with Partners In Health. Looking at PIH’s history, purpose, and ambitions is something I’m enthusiastic about, and being at UGHE provided a chance to develop my future professional path.
Q3. You and your classmates have studied in the midst of a global crisis. Against this backdrop, what have you learnt about pandemics and equitable solutions to them that you could apply in the future?
It’s been difficult to study in the midst of the global crisis. Looking at the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed the world. I believe it is our responsibility to bring solutions to developing countries by developing plans to prepare for future pandemics like this. The main takeaway from my MGHD is that to prepare for future pandemics, robust health systems are essential. When the Ebola outbreak struck Liberia, it was devastating as the country was unprepared for such an outbreak. But by studying the actions and measures taken to fight Ebola, we were better prepared to respond to COVID-19. The pandemic struck when we already had community health workers on standby to assist communities, and covid19 cases in Liberia are low compared to other countries since we already had measures in place.
What the world is experiencing right now for COVID 19 and the measures that the world is putting in place to combat COVID 19 are things that will help us prepare for future outbreaks like this because, for example, some countries can’t afford the COVID19 vaccine right now because their economies aren’t as strong as other countries that can afford to vaccinate all of their citizens.
Q4. Global challenges require solutions across borders and geographies. How do you think studying alongside students from 12 countries globally will change your approach in the future?
Studying alongside students from twelve different nations has been a fantastic experience for me. I’ve learnt new things from each of the individuals in my cohort. There are measures in place to solve problems in some of my classmates’ home countries, and I hope that some of them may be adopted in the Liberian context to meet my country’s global health delivery challenges.
We all come from different backgrounds, we’re doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and public health practitioners, so we’ve been able to learn some approaches, for example, pharmacy supply chain from those in our cohort who are pharmacists, and I’ve also been able to learn from those who are public health practitioners, those who work with monitoring and evaluation, so looking at all those experiences from them has helped to improve my knowledge in a way that I will be able to capitalize on the learnings I’ve got when I get back home.