icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Genetic Linkage

Please Help My Liberian “Son” Achieve his Dream as an Infectious Disease Physician

For many years I've ended editions of my human genetics textbook with a request for students to email me to share their thoughts on what they'd learned. Only one student has ever contacted me.


Emmanuel Zoboi Gokpolu was in high school in Monrovia, Liberia, when he emailed me at the end of his genetics course, in 2007.


My husband Larry and I quickly developed a friendship with Eman; he calls us Mom and Dad. We sent him a package of Obama tee shirts, which he distributed to his family. Free people of color from the US founded an independent Liberia in 1847, so there was a connection.


I recognized something special in Emmanuel right away, a love of biology and a compelling interest in health care and helping people. Larry and I supported him through college and then we encouraged him to go to medical school – fulfilling a dream of mine (bad chemistry grades kept me from applying).


Med school in Liberia was going well, until Ebola struck in 2014. With half the instructors dying and classes halted, Eman led medical students in carrying out public health measures. He organized a group called "Determined Youth for Progress" to sensitize rural communities to Ebola awareness and prevention measures, sent text alerts, and did contact tracing.


He told his story during the Ebola crisis here at DNA Science, in Eman's Emails from Liberia: Through September and then Eman Reports from Ebola Ground Zero. During that time, instead of paying his tuition, we sent support for gloves, detergent, bleach, and long sleeve shirts to keep him and his family as safe as possible.


Reading over that first post about Eman now gives me chills, in the context of COVID. Eman wrote on August 6, 2014:


To continue reading, go to my blog DNA Science at Public Library of Science. 

Be the first to comment