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Gambian tops PhD class in public health

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Ex-UTG student Kebba Kah this week graduated with a PhD in public health from the University of Utah’s Division of Public Health.

Dr Kah was also honored with the Outstanding PhD Student of the Year Award by the university. In addition to his core PhD program, he also undertook two graduate certificate courses in Global Health and Emergency Health.

Dr. Kah’s dissertation focused on assessing race and ethnic disparities in adverse birth outcomes, using data from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). His initial research interest was centered on maternal and child health in The Gambia, which he later switched from due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dr Kah is particularly intrigued by the evolution of public health practice over the last three decades; from working in silos to systems thinking approach.

“Although we understood that effective service delivery needed a holistic approach, we failed to do a good job in that until quite recently”, he told The Standard in a brief interview.

Pressed on his view of public health practice around the world, Dr Kah contends that huge disparities exist globally (especially in low- and middle-income countries) in public health resource allocation and utilization, service delivery, and health outcomes. “These disparities were further brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, most my work going forward, will be focused on public health programs and policies aimed at addressing the disparities that exist, particularly in maternal and child health in resource-poor settings.”

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His academic journey in public health started at The Gambia College’s School of Public Health where he obtained a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Public and Environmental Health, before completing his undergraduate degree in Public and Environmental Health (with a minor in Development Studies) at the University of The Gambia.

Dr. Kah’s US academic journey shoots north when he received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Fellowship Award at the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health’s Center for International Rural and Environmental Health (CIREH) in collaboration with UTG’s Department of Public Health. As part of conditions for the award, he returned home at the end of his fellowship and continued work in the field. He later returned to the US where he did a Master of Public Health with a focus on Community Health Education.

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