Postdoc advances research and lands professorship, thanks to inaugural AMTD fellowship

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

By Suzanne Bowness

Kemi Amodu

Oluwakemi (Kemi) Amodu is dedicated to advancing the reproductive and sexual health of the Hausa women in displaced persons camps in northern Nigeria. After devoting her doctoral research to revealing the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among this population, she has now built on that research as an inaugural recipient of the AMTD Waterloo Global Talent Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The fellowship, valued at $75,000 per year, supports scholars to advance the development of revolutionary expertise and create research that will contribute to waves of disruption for the betterment of society. Her postdoctoral work also helped her secure a position as assistant professor at the University of Alberta, where she completed her Master and PhD studies in nursing, and further funding through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Grant, which she will use to take her research to the next level.

Already trained as a registered nurse in Nigeria, Amodu completed her doctoral work by visiting Nigeria to work with the National Reproductive Health Working Group. Her postdoctoral work involved working with even more health organizations, including the United Nations Population Fund, Pathfinder International and others, to identify gaps and overlap in terms of their activities on the ground, data management and service provision around STIs in humanitarian settings, streamlining policies and output.

“We’ll be able to potentially create a more integrated, coordinated system, where there’s an integration of the kinds of programs that are in place, from the government and those being funded through humanitarian organizations,” she says.

Amodu’s focus on STIs is especially important because most international attention and funding to date has focused on diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, neglecting other types of STIs. STIs (trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis and fungal infections are among the most common in the camps) have not received nearly as much attention and public health planning, despite their devastating potential to cause pain, infertility and miscarriage. Also, women in the camps are not perceived as at-risk populations to the same extent as sex workers and the LGBTQ community, so there’s a dual neglect in terms of their identity and their condition when it comes to advocacy and care.

Following her AMTD postdoctoral appointment at Waterloo, Amodu plans to focus even further on the role of gender and socio-economic participation on well-being of internally displaced women and men. “I’m hoping that this will further amplify the need to take a gender perspective on understanding these issues and really shed more light on how to better understand the culture and cultural shifts that are taking place in this context,” she says.

Amodu calls her AMTD postdoc funding a “huge support” and says that she was equally pleased to have the opportunity to work with her postdoctoral supervisor Craig Janes, a researcher in the School of Public Health Sciences. “Working with him really helped me to conceptualize my own ideas, and also to think more broadly about the social determinants of health,” she says, adding that interest from the whole department made the University of Waterloo a supportive place to complete the postdoc. “I had the mentorship to transition to an independent scholar, and that’s evident in my winning the SSHRC and to be able to transition into a faculty position. And that support came in spite of difficult pandemic conditions. I'm grateful for the opportunity.”

Despite making the transition from front-line nursing to research, Amodu says she has similar motivations for the work she does today. “I’ve always been passionate about helping people. From nursing, I saw public health as an area that allows me to help an even broader population – beyond the hospital – and meet the needs of people in different locations, wherever they are. To get those issues out there for policy makers and global partners gives more visibility to our concerns around public health.”

For details about AMTD Postdocs and the process to become an AMTD scholar, please visit AMTD Waterloo Global Talent Postdoctoral Fellowship. Additional funding programs are also available for postdoctoral scholars through the University; please visit Find postdoc funding for information.