For the 2012-2013 year, VCU welcomes 7 mid-career professionals from Togo, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Brazil.
Dr. Sossinou Awoussi is an ophthalmologist from Togo in West Africa who received his medical degree from the Mixed Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Lome University in 2001. He worked for five years as a general practitioner in the Army Health Service before obtaining a grant from Lions Clubs International to attend an ophthalmology specialization at the Tropical Ophthalmology Institute of Africa in the Medical Faculty of the University of Bamako (Mali) from 2006-2010. During his training in ophthalmology, he was involved in volunteer work such as outreach eye care and the ‘Opening Eyes’ Program. As an ophthalmologist, Dr. Awoussi was appointed Chief Medical Officer for the Eye Unit at the Regional Hospital Center of Lome Commune, and in October 2011 was promoted to lead the National Coordination of Eye Health Program for Togo. Blindness is a major issue in his country, with prevalence over 1%. Cataract, refractive errors and glaucoma are the main causes. During his Fellowship, he expects to improve his skills in policy and management in public health, and especially in eye health issues. He is also looking to develop and strengthen partnerships with American sight organizations. The new skills and relationships will help him to more efficiently manage the eye health program in his country.
Ms. Suzan Ben Ezra, from Mazkeret Batya, Israel, earned her Bachelor of Social Work from Tel Hai Academic College and her Master in Social Work from Haifa University specializing in the field of corrections. For the past four years, she has worked as the Supervisor of the Southern Region for the Israel Anti-Drug Authority’s (IADA) Community Development Division, instructing local coordinators regarding the development and implementation of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, and assisting in the adaptation of national policies to meet local municipality needs. She is specifically responsible for coordinating activities targeted towards the religious and orthodox sectors of the population and for developing and conducting courses for team leaders at IADA. She previously served as the manager of a therapeutic community for victims of drug and alcohol abuse and as an advisor to social work students in a number of Israeli colleges and universities. Throughout her Fellowship, Ms. Ben Ezra wishes to focus on the following issues: special populations such as women, youth and families, community-based alcohol prevention programs, new treatment and rehabilitation methods, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and the development of coherent drug and alcohol-related policies.
Ms. Jezelle Charles, from Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the University of the West Indies in 1998, and her Master of Science in forensic science at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland in 2001. For the past ten years, Ms. Charles has worked as a forensic toxicologist at the Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre. In this position, she analyses clinical and post mortem biological samples and exhibits for the presence of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs and poisons. Ms. Charles is also responsible for the submission of data to the National Drug Council of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, with respect to drug-related deaths. During her Fellowship, Ms. Charles wants to enhance her knowledge of drug abuse, drug pharmacology and qualitative and quantitative analytical methods so that she can improve procedures in her toxicology laboratory and additionally assist in the creation of a national clinical toxicology laboratory. She also plans to develop greater knowledge about substance abuse prevention and treatment, thus enabling her to contribute to the National Drug Plan of Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Bola Ola, from Osogbo, Nigeria, received his undergraduate degree in medicine from Obafemi Awolowo University, and completed fellowships with the Faculties of Psychiatry at the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and the West African College of Physicians. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Behavioural Medicine, Lagos State University, and he is the head of the Substance Abuse Unit in its affiliated teaching hospital. In 2012, Dr. Ola received his advanced certificate in REBT from the Albert Ellis Institute. He was awarded a certificate of merit by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in 2000 and a fellowship in the International Society of Affective Disorders in 2008. In 2011, he received fellowship awards from the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology and NIDA-ISAM. Dr. Ola’s primary interest is in consultation-liaison psychiatry with a focus on adolescent and women’s mental health. He has 40 peer-reviewed publications in local and international journals. During his Fellowship year, he seeks to enhance his knowledge and skills related to drafting and promoting drug abuse policies and programs, especially as they relate to primary health care. He also hopes to become more familiar with NIH funding opportunities in order to support his work in Nigeria.
Ms. Rosie Myint, from Northern Shan State, Myanmar, obtained her degree in education from the Institute of Education, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) in 1994 and a degree in psychology from the Arts and Sciences University of Mandalay in 1983. Twenty years ago, while working as a senior teacher with ethnic minority groups in remote rural areas of her country, she began serving as a volunteer youth educator in a drug prevention program sponsored by the Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association (MANA). She is now a project officer and counselor for MANA, and is responsible not only for counseling intravenous drug users but also for planning, monitoring, and evaluating harm reduction activities in various project areas. She has a strong interest in qualitative and quantitative research on the prevention of drug abuse among those with behavioral issues, economic challenges and limited education. During her Fellowship year, Ms. Myint would like to improve her monitoring and evaluation skills as they relate to early drug prevention, relapse prevention and behavioral change communication programs. She will also focus her studies on community involvement and enhancement in drug demand reduction to create and foster a drug-free environment in the areas in which she works.
Mr. Kouame Sedaminou, from Lomé, Togo, obtained his Bachelor of Arts, Master in Human Geography, and Master of Advanced Studies from the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lomé. Since 2000, he has taught history, geography, moral education and civic duty classes to secondary school students at the Kodjoviakope Secondary School of Lomé, where he has also served as the Deputy Headmaster since 2005. In 2006, Mr. Sedaminou received training on drug abuse prevention and education through a UNODC-funded program designed to reduce drug demand in West Africa. From that time onward, he has worked with the National Anti-Drug Committee of Togo and many other associations to educate youth at risk for substance abuse and promote good decision making and safe choices. He has also trained peer leaders to advocate for positive change within their schools. He believes that education is power and educated youth create a healthy society. During his Humphrey year, he seeks to enhance his knowledge of drug abuse prevention programs for youth. His long-term goal is to intensify efforts to prevent alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse in schools and to train other teachers as substance abuse advisors.
Claudemir Dos Santos from Santos, SP, Brazil, received his bachelor's degree in social communication with an emphasis in public relations in 1998, and obtained a specialization in drug abuse prevention in 2008 from the Federal University of Santa Catarina. He has served as a police officer for nine years in the Sao Paulo State Military Police and works as an instructor in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education [D.A.R.E.] program. This education-based prevention program is implemented in primary and secondary schools and seeks to assist children and adolescents in making wise decisions about avoiding drugs and violence. Mr. Dos Santos also serves as part of a team that is charged with mentoring and expanding the D.A.R.E program throughout Brazil. During his Fellowship year, Mr. Dos Santos seeks to learn more about evidence-based practices in drug abuse prevention, and to become familiar with research related to the causes of drug abuse. He would like to develop culturally-appropriate prevention measures primarily directed at children and adolescents. Additionally, he would like to improve his skills in the evaluation of prevention programs. He is excited to participate in professional affiliations in these areas in order to improve his knowledge and abilities.