OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
Monica Asante Addo, a graduate of the Biomedical Enterprise master’s degree program, journeyed from West Africa seeking a higher education and lessons in innovation.
Though she had a steady job as a biomedical scientist in a military hospital in Ghana and a comfortable life with her husband and children, Monica Asante Addo (M.I.S. ’19) felt she wasn’t living up to her full potential.
Seeking to challenge herself and expand her knowledge, she began researching academic programs. When she found the Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ master’s degree program in Biomedical Enterprise, it seemed like exactly what she was looking for.
The program’s director contacted her several times to ask why she would journey so far, but Asante Addo was confident in her decision and when she received her acceptance letter, she packed her bags to begin studying at Georgia State.
“I love this program,” Asante Addo said. “I think it’s the coolest. In Ghana, there wasn’t any interdisciplinary program that [fit] what I wanted. Work was fine and I was meeting set expectations, but after 10 years I began to expect more of myself. I felt like I needed an education to fill in the gaps and bring me abreast [of] current trends in my field as well as related disciplines. This is like a second chance for me. It’s a great opportunity.”
She chose the master’s program because of its interdisciplinary curriculum, which combines studies in biomedical science, business and law. She jumped in and took advantage of numerous opportunities, even venturing out of her comfort zone to take a class in immunology so she could better understand scientific articles. She also took as many electives as possible, including several law classes. Realizing that she loves bioethics, she took the initiative to pursue an independent research project in this area of study as well.
In addition to her busy class schedule, Asante Addo worked in a faculty member’s lab in the institute’s Center for Microbial Pathogenesis that is dedicated to studying Ebola virus. She even landed a coveted internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At the CDC, Asante Addo worked in the U.S. National Authority for Containment of Poliovirus (NAC) at the Center for Preparedness and Response. Her duties were mainly sorting and analyzing data to help generate reports to the World Health Organization (WHO) on poliovirus containment efforts in the United States. WHO has set out to identify facilities worldwide that could have infectious or potentially infectious poliovirus materials. To stop the spread of the disease, the goal is to either have these facilities destroy the materials or become certified to handle the virus properly.
“I have always admired the CDC’s health promotion efforts worldwide,” Asante Addo said. “I saw this as a chance to experience the fight against a viral disease from a nonclinical perspective. I have come to appreciate the role of policy in disease control and the need for collaboration across disciplines, nationally and worldwide, to tackle any disease.”
Monica Asante Addo
In Ghana, Asante Addo worked in the pathology division of the 37 Military Hospital of the Ghana Armed Forces. She and her colleagues provided laboratory diagnostic support for patient care and for some CDC-sponsored projects. She worked mainly in clinical chemistry. However, as the work became more automated over the years, she found herself less able to focus on the science because of administrative tasks and travel requirements.
While she pursued an education to improve herself, Asante Addo also wanted to motivate younger family members, including her 6- and 8-year-old children, to reach for their dreams and have higher expectations of themselves. And as a first-generation master’s degree holder, she’s setting an example.
“I always tell the younger ones in my family that now that I have a master’s, no one can stay lower than that,” Asante Addo said.
Thanks to her experiences in the master’s program and at the CDC, Asante Addo has refined her career goals and while she plans to work for a while after graduation, she is considering pursuing graduate studies in public health.
The program exposed her to new concepts in innovation and entrepreneurship, and though she’s not sure if she’ll end up in business, she recognizes these are principles that can be applied to any field.
And it’s knowledge she can bring back home.
“I really value the push toward innovation that this program offers,” Asante Addo said. “I hope to draw on these experiences to continue to innovate wherever I find myself. That is how progress is made. One cannot keep doing things the same way and expect better results.”