Man on a Mission: MPH Student Emmanuel Agymang-Dua Pursues Career in Global Public Health With Determination

Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua returns from his World Health Organization (WHO) internship with a gift

Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua, 2018 graduate of UVA’s Master in Public Health program, returns from his World Health Organization (WHO) internship with a gift for Public Health Sciences Chair Ruth Bernheim and Graduate Education Coordinator Tracey Brookman (right). The poster, prepared as part of the Universal Health Coverage campaign Agyemang-Dua worked on while a WHO intern in the Spring of 2018, was presented to thank the Master’s Program for helping to make the internship possible. The poster’s message comes from the WHO’s constitution, ratified 70 years ago at the founding of the organization.

Scheduled to graduate in December 2017 with his MPH, Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua was awarded a coveted internship at the World Health Organization, a dream he had held for several years. Working with Director of Student Affairs Tracey Brookman and Public Health Sciences Chair Ruth Bernheim, Agyemang-Dua was able to extend his enrollment through the Spring of 2018, enabling him to take part in the WHO internship program to satisfy his MPH applied practice requirement, and to incorporate the experience as part of his Master’s projects. Extending his student status an additional five months also qualified him for a scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which he pursued on his own and which made his participation in the unpaid internship program financially possible.

Interning as a policy analyst for four months in the area of stakeholder engagement in the Department of Communications at the WHO, Agyemang-Dua worked on the organization’s World Health Day 2018 campaign utilizing the theme “Universal Health Coverage.”  Part of that work involved helping to develop an advocacy toolkit for the campaign. Agyemang-Dua also took part in presenting the campaign at the Geneva Health Forum, a biannual conference held in Geneva, most recently in April 2018.

World Health Organization (WHO) intern Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua and WHO Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems Naoko Yamamoto

World Health Organization (WHO) intern Emmanuel Agyemang-Dua and WHO Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems Naoko Yamamoto at the organization’s corporate stand dedicated to Universal Health Coverage and Health for All at the Geneva Health Forum. The forum is a biannual conference in Geneva, Switzerland held this year April 9-12, 2018.


He described the internship experience as “amazing.”

“Besides just the professional insight and the growth I got from working with the Department of Communications, having the opportunity to sit and meet with the Director General and the Assistant Director Generals to strategize and map out the campaign,’ he relates, “I’ve also had the opportunity to work on the WHO Intern Board.” The Intern Board is an association of WHO interns from all around the world. The Board’s goal is to advocate for and obtain fair internship opportunities for all the interns. “As part of the Intern Board we were able to get free lunch vouchers for the interns as well as five days of excused leave of absence for the interns.”

“I also joined an (Intern Board) committee focused on youth engagement,” he recounts. “The goal of the youth engagement branch of this Board committee was to start strategizing ways to reach out to youth around the world who are interested in public health and interested in getting involved with the WHO and the Sustainable Development Goals of the WHO.”

Agyemang-Dua advises future students interested in public health careers, especially in global health issues, not to let perceived barriers make them shy away from opportunities to work with multi-lateral, multi-national organizations like the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and WHO. He offers his experience as proof that such opportunities are possible within the academic framework when students employ patience, determination, and open communication with their academic mentors.

“One thing I learned is that this program equips us with the skills and abilities to get there, to be able to contribute to these multi-lateral organizations. It is only our job to get from behind our fears and take the first step, apply, talk to someone, talk to your academic advisor, talk to Tracey Brookman, talk to Ruth Bernheim, find out how they can work with you to make it possible for you to go away for a semester, or half a semester to work with organizations like the NIH, CDC,WHO.”

Asked what’s next on his agenda, Agyemang-Dua smiles and says he will probably be job hunting here in the United States. Then he reveals that the WHO has offered to employ him as a paid consultant for six months. He’s considering it; it would give him another springboard into the professional world of global public health.