For Community College Initiative (CCI) Program alumna Mbanwei Prodencia Tifuh, the year she spent in the United States was just one step on a much longer journey to improve public health in her home country of Cameroon.
Prodencia studied Applied Health at Northern Virginia Community College in 2011-12. A highlight of her experience was an internship at INOVA Health System. “I loved working in such an enabling, relaxed but customer-focused environment,” she said.
That experience contrasts sharply with the humanitarian crises Prodencia has faced while practicing health care back home. After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing in Cameroon in 2013, Prodencia went to work in the country’s Far North Region, an area with few hospitals and beset by cholera outbreaks, drought, malnutrition, the Boko Haram insurgency, and an influx of Nigerian refugees. As a nurse, Prodencia completed trainings in malnutrition, communication, HIV prevention, emergency preparedness, and cholera management. With a passion for addressing maternal and infant mortality, she became a leader in the area of nutrition by supervising eight nutrition centers, assisting training nurses, promoting health initiatives to fight malnutrition, and providing prenatal support for expectant mothers.
Throughout her efforts, Prodencia saw how Cameroon’s limited resources and humanitarian crises “greatly interfered with the satisfaction of the most basic and essential needs of the local population.” That motivated her to find ways to resolve such issues at a structural level. In the fall of 2015 she began a master’s degree program in International Cooperation, Humanitarian Action, and Sustainable Development at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon. She completed an internship at Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health and is currently working on a dissertation that analyzes nutrition among refugee children in Minawao refugee camp.
In addition to her studies, Prodencia has brought the CCI spirit of volunteerism to her graduate program. On several occasions she mobilized classmates to visit orphanages, where they brought books and school materials, and provide medical consultations to the children. She also organized classmates to provide education to street children on topics such as personal development, health, and sex education. They also collected dresses, shoes and food for the children. In 2017, Prodencia and some classmates formed GreenLife Act, a group that works “to reduce social inequalities in our communities while promoting sustainable development.”
After her graduate program, Prodencia plans to continue improving her community by working for an international organization and eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in maternal and child nutrition.
“The (CCI Program) planted diverse seeds in me, including a high commitment to learning and service, volunteerism and giving back to the community,” Prodencia said.