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Ghana’s Dr. Letitia Obeng, the first Ghanaian woman to hold a PhD honoured by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

At the inaugural graduation ceremony of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (), Dr. Letitia Obeng was honoured and presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree. 

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has honoured Dr. Letitia Obeng at its inaugural graduation ceremony at Liverpool’s iconic Liver Building, as she was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science Degree.

Dr. Letitia Obeng is a graduate of LSTM, completing her PhD in Liverpool during the 1960s following an invitation from the then Dean, Professor Brian Maegraith to study at LSTM. Her life reads as a list of significant firsts, being the first Ghanaian woman to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, Zoology and Botany from the University of Birmingham. She taught at the College of Science & Technology in Kumasi, before undertaking her PhD in Liverpool, which ignited her passion for freshwater research.

Studying black fly, the vector for onchocerciasis or river blindness, she became very familiar with the fresh water courses in North Wales during her studies, returning to Ghana as the first woman to hold a PhD and setting up and directing the Institute of Aquatic Biology. Her reputation continued to grow, she spent 11 years with the United Nations Environment Programme, including as the Director of its Regional Office for Africa. In 2006, Dr. Obeng was honoured with Ghana’s highest award, the Order of the Star of Ghana. The first woman elected as a fellow to Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2008, she was unanimously chosen as its first female President.

On receiving her award from LSTM, she said:

    I am delighted to have been honoured like this by LSTM, who have been welcoming from my initial time of study and on further visits more recently. My work at LSTM equipped me with a valuable understanding of important aspects of freshwater ecosystems… due to my experiences and association with LSTM I was able to return home and do something. LSTM is a fantastic organisation and I will always look back to my time in Liverpool with great fondness.

The two ceremonies were LSTM’s first independent graduation ceremonies after having received its degree awarding powers in 2017. Accounting for 352 students graduating, 84 were present to be awarded their Master, PhDs and diplomas.

LSTM’s Director, Professor Janet Hemingway, said:

    Our graduates have always been incredibly proud of their association with LSTM and it was fantastic for the first time to have been able to issue them with degrees directly from the institution. From its inception, LSTM has been training the next generation of leaders in the fields of tropical medicine and global heath, and I was delighted to be able to send them on their way as part of the LSTM’s community, making an impact in disease endemic countries.

The British High Commissioner to Ghana H.E Iain Walker, on hearing the news about her award said:

    I am excited about this honour by the University on Dr. Letitia Obeng for her great work and contribution in Ghana. The UK is proud that Dr. Obeng decided to study in some of our universities, and has used her experience to lead such innovative work and contribute so much to science, research and academia in Ghana.

Along with Dr. Obeng, Professor Victor Mwapasa, from Malawi, was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree during the ceremonies.


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