UL College of Health Sciences, Congo Town, Monrovia | June 21, 2022 : A USAID-funded BRIDGE–U: Liberia project, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI), has been officially launched at the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS) in Congo Town.

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy near Monrovia, Mr. Joel F. Maybury, performed the official duty of launching the CLTI on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 during the grand ceremony held in the Auditorium of the University of Liberia (UL) A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

CTLI, a public-private academic hub for research utilization, inter-professional training, innovation, and knowledge generation in Liberia will deliver in several key areas.

These include faculty development programming; Camp xSEL, an annual science camp for secondary school students; research on utilizing evidence in the health sciences; and the Experiential Learning and Assessment Lab (ELAB), a clinical simulation center at John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

Other vital areas in which CLTI will deliver are evidence-based decision-making courses for current policymakers; and innovation and entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and venture incubation.

The panelists at the launching exercise examine challenges to and opportunities for a localized approach to research utilization in Liberia in the realms of policy, public health, clinical care, teaching, and learning.

Panelists were Hon. Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Minister of Health; Commander Dr. Rachel Idowu, Country Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Kristina Talbert-Slagle, Assistant Professor/PI, Yale University/BRIDGE-U: Liberia.

Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, the UL Vice President for Health Sciences and Co-PI of the BRIDGE-U: Liberia award, moderated the discussion.

Shortly before officially launching the CLTI, Mr. Joel F. Maybury, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia, urged countries in the sub-region, including Liberia to invest in research to enhance teaching and learning.

“Most countries have not invested enough in areas that strengthen quality research including investment in electronic libraries, medical biodiversity, [and] diplomacy,” he said

Amb. Maybury emphasized the importance for researchers and scholars to undertake current research studies and provide solutions to some of the basic societal problems.

Launching the CLTI, Mr. Maybury said the launch of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation is yet another great achievement that marks U.S. – Liberia’s long-standing partnership.

“The CTLI will serve as a gateway to modern health education technology for the next generation of essential health workers – doctors, nurses, administrators, and faculty,” said Mr. Maybury.

Most importantly, he added, the CTLI will be a source of research information for entrepreneurs who are expected to improve their business initiatives using research-based evidence.

According to the top U.S. Diplomat, the day of the launching of CLTI was an especially proud moment as “we” stand at the intersection of several different partnerships between the United States and Liberia.

First, he said there is the USAID-funded Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research, or PEER/Liberia which is working to strengthen medical education both at the undergraduate and residency levels.

Then, he said, there is the Resilient & Responsive Health Systems Initiative, funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and administered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration.

“This initiative supports classroom and clinical training for physicians, nurses, midwives, and health managers,” he said.

“And now, the Bringing Research to Impact for Development, Global Engagement, and Utilization (BRIDGE-U), also funded by USAID, is building off these initiatives to enrich faculty development and student-learning across the College of Health Sciences,” Mr. Maybury explained.

He stated that these projects are models of innovation and impact, demonstrating the tremendous change that can be achieved through partnership and collaboration. 

“Our U.S. university and other partners are working side-by-side with the University of Liberia and Tubman University, just as we at the Embassy work side-by-side with the Ministry of Health to reimagine medical education in Liberia,” said Amb. Maybury.

He concluded that the U.S. government is proud of the many ways in which its assistance improves health outcomes for the Liberian people.

“In continuation of our strong partnership and collaboration, I am pleased to announce that the CTLI is officially launched!”

Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr., President of the University of Liberia, said the University is grateful to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other partners for their faith and investment in the institution.

“I am confident that The Center for Teaching, Learning and Innovation (CTLI) and all related programs will be very transformational for our faculty and students,” President Nelson said.

He also expressed excitement because the Center will serve as a hub for collaborative training and innovation with the larger community, including clinicians, policymakers, and entrepreneurs.

“Universities are a part of the fabric of the community, and it is our privilege and mission to promote lifelong learning and research in partnership with our neighboring institutions and colleagues,” President Nelson continued.

He noted that he was excited because the opening of the CTLI is a momentous occasion, which builds on years of progress at the College of Health Science, and ushering in a new era for high quality and professional health education.

“It will interest you to note that fifty years ago, we started with just the A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, but today in spite of the challenges faced over the years, we have a busy campus with four schools including our School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, and School of Nursing and Midwifery, as well as strengthened administrative systems.”

In closing, President Nelson urged the need to continue working together to develop the health workforce of Liberia, and reduce the patient to health worker ratio far lower than what it is now.

Earlier serving as one of the panelists, Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said the health sector in the country needs quality researchers who must have the information and resources to achieve their objectives.

“As a good researcher, you have to choose the topics that benefit the patients, have clinical trials, be able to analyze data, build teamwork between the public and private institutions, patients, and you must have the technology,’ Dr. Jallah noted.

Another panelist, Dr. Rachel T. Idowu, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Country Director, presenting on how research strengthens public health, stated that research is that tool that answers any question, be it in laboratory science, fieldwork or other professions.

“Because research answers questions that you do not already know, we encourage you to always ask questions by undertaking research in the simplest way other than always being complex,” Dr Idowu said.

Dr. Bernice Dahn, Vice President for the College of Health Sciences, University of Liberia and Co-PI of the BRIDGE-U: Liberia award, said the UL College of Health Sciences is beginning to take shape.

She said to be able to reform the College of Health Sciences at UL it requires investment, noting that the University was blessed to have investment from the USAID – funded initiative called BRIDGE – U: Liberia.

She also acknowledged other partners including U.S. – based universities Yale and Vanderbilt, as well as Liberia’s Ministry of Health for the partnerships.

She said since 2019, partnerships have been built with academic institutions both from the Western World and from the African Continent.

“We continue to have visiting faculty to come and teach in the School of Pharmacy and the Medical School. We drafted a strategic plan for the College of Health Sciences and all of that;  we did a five – year plan for the A.M. Dogliotti College,” said Dr. Dahn.

She said the curriculum has been reformed, and it’s student – centered, and faculty has been developed.

“We’re also designing new programs as they are needed by the country … and one of the programs is the Master’s in Public Health,” said Dr. Dahn.

According to Dr. Dahn, the biggest gap that existed between the University and the Teaching Hospital was coordination, and therefore, an academic office has been established at the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital.

Meanwhile, Bridge- U: Liberia Project Director, Ms. Chelsea Plyler, in an introductory remark, outlined the focus of the project, with specific emphasis on six thematic areas of implementation during this circle.

She named the areas as faculty development training, including 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 and to engage with research.