A nutrition scientist from Ghana nourishing future generations: unlocking the potential of OWSD Early Career fellowship
Biomedicine represents the future of healthcare, aiming to intercept diseases before they arise and tailoring solutions to each individual's unique needs. It's not just about treating illnesses; it's about preventing them before they take root.
Dr. Mary Adjepong, an OWSD Early Career Fellow from Ghana, took the scientific community by storm during her recent visit to Italy, in September 2023, where she was invited to join the OWSD Secretariat in a number of strategic events that took place in Trieste and Rome. Her journey, laden with impactful engagements and breakthrough moments, promises new hope for addressing critical challenges in childhood nutrition and development in Ghana.
A leading figure in the field of Human Nutrition, Dr. Adjepong's journey from Ghana to Michigan State University in the USA, where she earned her PhD, reflects her dedication to combating childhood stunting and cognitive health issues. Now a lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, she focuses on developing fortified feeding products crucial for children's growth and cognitive development. Her fervent dedication is fueled by the OWSD Early Career Fellowship Program, propelling her groundbreaking research endeavors.
Dr. Adjepong's focus on producing nutrition-rich complementary feeding products has a clear aim: reducing childhood stunting and enhancing cognitive and ocular health in children. Her work uncovers the grim reality that a large percentage of Ghanaian children are deprived of essential fatty acids and vitamin A, crucial for their growth and well-being. Her findings underscore the urgency for a nutritional revolution in the country.
In Italy, Dr. Adjepong's presence resonated across pivotal events. From the Trieste Next Research Festival to a Short Film Showcase organized by OWSD at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, her voice reverberated, shining a spotlight on her mission to transform child health in Ghana.
Her rendezvous with the Ghanaian Ambassador, H.E. Merene Benyah, and the subsequent discussions not only bolstered her visibility but also paved the way for a promise: a meeting with Ghanaian government high-ups, potentially catapulting her cause to national attention.
Dr. Mary Adjepong's journey to Rome culminated in a prestigious recognition at the Aspen Institute Italia Awards for scientific research and collaboration between Italy and the United States. The event, under the chairmanship of Giulio Tremonti, Chairman of Aspen Institute Italia, brought together luminaries from both countries. Notably, Dr. Adjepong was invited to present her research during a panel debate on the Future of Biomedicine, moderated by Barbara Carfagna, a prominent journalist and presenter from Rai, Rome.
In her compelling presentation, Dr. Adjepong commenced by offering a captivating perspective on the evolution of medicine in Africa. She likened the past to "Medicine 1.0," a realm characterized by superstition, witchcraft, voodoo, trial and error, and an absence of scientific underpinning. Today, she emphasized, we operate in "Medicine 2.0," grounded in evidence and dedicated to curing and treating diseases. The future, she passionately elucidated, is "Medicine 3.0," poised to prevent diseases before they manifest and tailored to individual needs, embodying the realm of biomedicine.
Dr. Adjepong then delved into her research, firmly based in Ghana, where she concentrates on improving the growth and development of children through innovative food-based approaches. Her drive stems from the realization that numerous children in her country are languishing below their intellectual and physical potential, primarily due to multiple nutrient deficiencies leading to neurocognitive deficits and nutrition-related stunting. A pivotal aspect of Dr. Adjepong's work is the quest for "strong biomarkers" capable of indicating the onset of neurocognitive impairments. This endeavor is central to her mission of enhancing human development from early childhood throughout one's life. She emphasized that early diagnosis through biomarkers, genetic markers, and other variables is fundamental to designing diets that can preempt diseases before they take hold. This is particularly significant in Sub-Saharan Africa, where routine neuropsychological evaluations are a rarity, despite the high risk faced by many young individuals.
The magic of Rome didn't stop at ceremonies. Engagements with award winners Henry Colecraft and Anna Moroni birthed a pact to infuse Ghanaian universities with cutting-edge research and capacity-building tools. The promise? Training and equipping local scholars to lead the nutritional charge.Beyond the scientific realm, collaborations with other stakeholders, including Italian companies and research centres promise groundbreaking initiatives to combat food security issues in Ghana. With discussions swirling around research ventures and potential production facilities in Ghana, the partnership indicates a promising stride toward sustainable solutions for the nation's nutrition needs.
Dr. Mary Adjepong's visit to Rome wasn't just another scientific escapade. It was a beacon of hope, showcasing potential collaborations, groundbreaking solutions, and a pathway to a brighter, healthier future for Ghana's children. Her journey underscores the power of global connections, uniting visionaries for a cause that transcends borders and promises a tangible impact on the lives of the youngest generation.
The OWSD Early Career Fellowship served as the launchpad for Dr. Adjepong's journey. This empowering initiative provided crucial support, enabling her to further her research on childhood nutrition. The fellowship not only offered financial assistance but also opened doors to global events and engagements, propelling her cause to the forefront. It’s through OWSD's backing that Dr. Adjepong found herself at the heart of Rome's scientific discussions, forging collaborations and sparking new solutions for child health in Ghana.