Emmanuelle Dankwa: The UG Alumna Who’s A Disease Outbreak Investigator At Oxford University

Emmanuelle Afaribea Dankwa

Emmanuelle Dankwa, after her secondary education at the Abuakwa State College, applied to study medicine at the University of Ghana because she thought it would be ‘cool’ to become a doctor.

The application process allowed for multiple courses to be chosen, as second and third choices. Emmanuelle, however, was offered a combination of Mathematics and Statistics instead, which happened to be her third choice.

“It was not until the end of my second year in the university that I realised what a good choice I had made in deciding to study Mathematics (with Statistics). After a bit of self-reflection, I found that my apparent interest in becoming a doctor was purely influenced by a societal bias towards medicine as a more ‘prestigious’ field, rather than my own true desires,” Emmanuelle noted.

Emmanuelle Afaribea Dankwa

Fast forward to 2017, Emmanuelle graduated with a first-class honours degree and was named the best graduating female student in her subject area. She later worked as a teaching assistant at the Department of Statistics in the University of Ghana, teaching first and second-year undergraduate students. During that period, she was encouraged by my lecturers to explore opportunities for further study. With the excellent coaching of some mentors, she applied for the Rhodes Scholarship to study for a postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford.

“I could not contain my joy when I was announced as one of two winners of the inaugural Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa. I remain thankful for the phenomenal support received from my family, friends and mentors during the application and selection process,” she said.

Emmanuelle Afaribea Dankwa was one of two winners of the inaugural Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa

Emmanuelle is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, working towards a degree in Statistical Science. Her main area of specialisation is in statistical epidemiology and the modelling of the spread of infectious diseases. She focuses on the application of mathematical models and statistical principles in studying the design of robust models which can reliably inform intervention strategies in the face of an epidemic.

Emmanuelle’s modelling experience cuts across human diseases such as malaria and hepatitis A, to animal diseases such as African swine fever.

Giving an insight into her research methods and aims, she said: “I use two types of data in my research: surveillance data collected during actual outbreaks and ‘artificial’ data generated with the aid of a computer.”

“To make the models that I develop more realistic, I consider various factors, especially those which may affect how different individuals respond to an infection. One such factor is vaccination. Using these models, I can estimate the level of vaccination required to halt or slow down the spread of an infectious disease. This information is particularly useful in the planning of vaccination programs.”

“My research is highly relevant to the promotion of public health and wellbeing. When individuals and governments have a clearer understanding of the factors which influence the spread of infectious diseases, they will be in a better position to take the best actions to prevent and control outbreaks. Consequently, more people will be protected against infectious diseases and more lives will be saved.”

Emmanuelle Afaribea Dankwa

Emmanuelle is a member of St Peter’s College, where she serves as Welfare Officer at the College; and as Treasurer of the Oxford University Africa Society.

She is also the co-founder of CIYZOE Eco Group, a non-governmental organization involved in advocacy for plastic waste recycling as well as in the facilitation of efficient plastic waste cycles in communities and institutions. She doubles up as team leader of the Group’s vibrant community of volunteers.

source: Oxford University

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