MPH student meets president of Rwanda during practicum


Nana Wilmot was casually talking with the secretary of the president of Rwanda when suddenly the secretary jumped to her feet, surprising Wilmot – the president had just walked in the room and was ready to meet Wilmot

Wilmot, a Master of Public Health student in the Division of Epidemiology, conducted her practicum in Rwanda this past summer.

During her time in the country she was given the opportunity to meet Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, and learn from his experiences.

Wilmot said the whole practicum was fantastic but meeting the president was the best experience of the trip. Wilmot said Kagame had a true interest in the youth, especially since he has children of his own and is relying on the next generation to continue moving the country forward. During this informal meeting the president wished to learn more about Wilmot’s career and future plans. 

“He was talking to us like a father talks to his children,” Wilmot said.

Kagame asked what she plans to do with the education she receives from Ohio State and hopes she will use it to benefit her home.

“His charge to us is to act as ambassadors and to go back and finish our education,” Wilmot said. “He said, ‘Come back and develop Africa as a whole. At the end of the day we are all Africans.’”

Wilmot was born in the United States but grew up in Ghana. However, she said conducting her practicum outside of Ghana was uncomfortable.

“Honestly I was scared because that was totally going outside of my comfort zone and I had never been to another African country,” she said. “This was all foreign to me.”

She said the difference in language, ethnic groups and traditions were some of the factors causing the nervousness of traveling to Rwanda. However, Wilmot said it was important to her to study abroad because the issue of global health is of utmost imporatnce to her. 

“The merging of world health perspectives from developing nations and developed nations is a good means of providing a platform that will enable the international community and the world at large to easily and collaboratively tackle world changing issues," Wilmot said.

Aside from meeting the president which was “icing on the cake,” Wilmot was able to find what she wants to focus on in the future. Before she left for Rwanda she only knew she wanted to focus on epidemiology but nothing beyond that.

“After Rwanda my focus has been more towards infectious disease,” she said. “I want to train as a primary care physician because that is what is needed in Sub-Saharan Africa. If you are able to address the issues of primary care and infectious disease, that is going cover a lot of problems that we have. That has helped me streamline what career path I want to go into.”

Part of what helped Wilmot streamline her thought process was her boss at World Health Organization, who knew that having an epidemiology background was not enough in Sub-Saharan Africa. She knew Wilmot needed to have the holistic experience and Wilmot was thankful to be placed in the maternal and child health unit. Because of this, she now has a greater comprehension of health care.

“It goes hand-in-hand--infections affect maternity and child health, which is a big issue in most of Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.

Wilmot said learning how different fields affect one another was highly beneficial, as was the whole experience. She was also able to give back with the knowledge she gained at Ohio State.

“We get training (at Ohio State) but it is only in an academic sense. When you go [to a place like Rwanda], you are thrown in and you’re supposed to use everything that you have learned to address the problem at hand.”

Wilmot's advisor is Alison Norris


About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).