A Ghanaian native and now a United States citizen, Kwadwo Agyapong Sarpong has set up a Non-Profit Organization to help bridge the gap between male and female scientists in Africa.
The organization, ‘African Research Academies for Women’ is meant to give women scientists in Africa, an opportunity to sharpen their Research skills in Science to be able to contribute their quota meaningfully to science research in Africa. When asked about why he focused on women, Kwadwo Sarpong said he once visited UNESCO’s website while a student at Emory University and realized the huge disparity between male and female scientists in Africa and so with the help of a friend, came out with this initiative to address this worrying trend. Moreover, he had female friends in school who were equally smart as him but they never got the opportunities he had growing up in a male- dominated society.
He said in America, the government through the National Institute of Health (NIH) and research- oriented institutions fund people to do research but it was unfortunate that Scientists in Africa had to go through an ordeal to carry out a science research, talk less of being paid.
This situation, therefore, motivated him to bring out this initiative so as to replicate the American model of research in Ghana. ‘We want to replicate the American model in Ghana, a system where our governments and schools would see the relevance of funding biomedical research and create avenues for scientists to develop and grow in these fields, he said.
As a Ghanaian, he thought it would be prudent to start from his home country and so started negotiations with Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research where their pilot group of 5 received training and mentorship from Noguchi’s already established female principal investigators.
He said, they decided to start with 5 girls as a pilot group to be able to assess the impact f the programme but was hoping to recruit more this year but which will ultimately depend on the funding they will receive this year.
Asked about how this NGO is funded, Kwadwo Sarpong said he had family and friends who supported the idea initially and so funded the cost of mentoring the pilot group and said they will be able to reach out to more people if they receive donor funding.
He added that they are currently in talks with Emory University, University of Pennsylvania and other top tier research institutions to host the selected girls from the academy in Ghana to be part of a summer exchange fellowship here in the United States and across the globe. This way, the young female scientists can enhance their research skills in these schools after their initial research exposure and mentorship in Ghana.
African Research Academies for Women Co-founder and C.E.O, Kwadwo Sarpong has won many awards in academia in the United States and has spoken and presented his work at many conferences including the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and the Ghana Physicians and Surgeons Foundation of North America in Atlanta.
After arriving in the United States in 2009 from Ghana and working as a housekeeper, a walmart and a warehouse associate for 2 years, he began his education at Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) as Chemistry and Chemical Engineering major.
At GPC, he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Outstanding student in Physical Sciences, STEM Sophomore scholar and a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) scholar. He worked together with Dr. Suazette Mooring to synthesize thiophene and pyridine derivatives that could act as potential inhibitors of CXCR4, and potentially reduce the metastasis of cancer cells.
Sarpong then transferred to Emory University where he focused his concentration and research interests on neuroscience and neurological diseases. As an Hughes Undergraduate Excelling in Science Student, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Scholar and a SURE fellow, he worked under Dr. Arthur English studying the effects of increased neuronal activity on regeneration of sensory neurons following peripheral nerve injury using optogenetics.
Kwadwo Sarpong recently graduated from Emory University with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral biology and will be enrolling at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York as an NIH (PREP) MD/PhD. Scholar while he continues his leadership role with ARA-W.
As an aspiring researcher and a Neurosurgeon, Sarpong hopes to give back to his community due to his desire to educate, expose the causes of diseases and to eradicate preconceived notions regarding these diseases in medically- deprived countries.
Author: Ernest Osei