Many congratulations to Samuel Boland of the University of Chicago, who worked with GOAL for nine months on the Ebola response in Sierra Leone, on being awarded a prestigious Marshall Scholarship.
The award for graduate study will take Samuel to England next year to pursue a master’s degree in global public health, with a focus on development in Africa. He is Chicago University’s 22nd Marshall scholar since 1986.
Earlier this year, Samuel received a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which supports students pursuing careers in public service.
Speaking to the University’s magazine LINK Samuel said magazine the Marshall Scholarship will allow him to pursue his interest in improving access to maternal and child health services and exploring innovative ways to strengthen the health system infrastructure in countries where it is inadequate.
During his time with GOAL, during the height of the Ebola crisis, Samuel worked in the Port Loko and Kambia districts. He supported Ebola surveillance efforts and helped manage government teams responsible for tracking down suspect Ebola cases for referral to treatment centres.
“To arrive to a situation [in Sierra Leone] where there were 500 Ebola cases a week, and watch that drop to zero cases was an incredibly powerful experience. I saw how a collection of people and institutions could come together as one team working against one enemy.”
Samuel returned to Chicago in September to finish his studies.
Commenting on the award, John W. Boyer, dean of College, said: “We are enormously proud of the intellectual leadership and creativity of students in the College, and Sam’s achievement is a testament to those qualities. We have been inspired by Sam’s commitment to improve the lives of those affected by the devastation of the Ebola virus with his own talents and interests in medicine and health policy. We are extremely proud to see him pursue these goals as a Marshall Scholar.”
Prior to his work with GOAL, Samuel completed internships in global public health in Kenya and South Sudan through Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of Global Health and Human Rights. In Kenya, he was responsible for logistical and programmatic support at a rural community hospital; in South Sudan he oversaw midwifery trainings and facilitated the medical training programme at Juba Teaching Hospital.
Following the completion of his master’s degree, he plans to return to the United States to pursue a one-year post-baccalaureate, pre-med programme, followed by medical school. This will afford him a “dual degree” perspective of both medicine and public health policy, which will position him well for global public health work.
A public policy major with a minor in human rights, Samuel told the university magazine that his experiences in Africa have spurred in him an “ethical and moral imperative” to create health care systems that best meet the needs of vulnerable populations. While in Sierra Leone, he witnessed devastating loss of life, recalling a family that was quarantined for four months, he said: “One after the other, someone in the family died. Their household went from 19 members to nine.”
Emily Lynn Osborn, associate professor of history at the College, said: “Sam’s choice to work on the Ebola response in Sierra Leone is emblematic of his dedication to helping, as he puts it, ‘our human family.’ He is moved by an urgency to use his skill and talents to help others and to overcome differences of privilege, wealth and distance.”
Despite the emotional toll his work on Ebola exacted, Samuel has said forming bonds with others and helping save lives is what drives him: “There is a camaraderie that exists among those who have decided to put themselves at some risk to do work like this. I saw colleagues who, in the midst of tragedy, were able to mitigate and alleviate a huge amount of suffering. I don’t know how I could go through such an experience and not decide that this is the right thing to do.”