In August 2015, I started working as a postgraduate research assistant (in Peace Studies) at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Cape Coast. This is after 4 years of working as an undergraduate research assistant at the Department of Medical Laboratory Technology of the same university. Yes. I have re-directed my academic course from the health sciences to the social sciences.
Since my university graduation in 2010, I defied popular opinion to go work on the medical laboratory bench in the hospital and stayed in academia. 4 years on, I am convinced that my future remains in academia, but I am not sure that my impact would be optimally felt in the area of health sciences. 4 years as a student and 4 years as a research staff in the university with co-authored publications had given me significant insight into the rudiments of health studies and the challenges associated with training health professionals.
At the department of laboratory technology I worked with goal-getters and change-makers who continually have to deal with the inadequacies of our educational system but still manage to train life-savers for the Ghanaian health system. I have had the rare privilege of working with youthful and perfectionist academics who gave me a great sense of family and mentoring. I have worked with some very inspiring students who have challenged me to learn and do more. Students who equaled my accomplishments and those who surpassed them; both in academia and extra-curricular circles. I refrain from creating a list I can’t complete, but in a future article, I will try to make an expose of the people who have played significant contributions in my development.
However, this redirection has become necessary because whilst I was in the health sciences, I developed so many aspects of me through extra-curricular involvement in issues related to leadership development and public policy analysis, resulting in a kindled love affair with the social sciences. This love led to my divorce from active engagement in medical laboratory technology. It is a decision that was taken on the back of deep thought and mixed-feelings but that was inspired by two main considerations. First is my quest for a philosophical understanding of society, and second, the prospects of a more fulfilling academic and professional environment that matched my personality. And here, I want to place emphasis on “personality” because this switch is purely about my personality and does not in any way infer a hierarchy between the social and natural or health-sciences.
So first, I realized that I had a strong affinity for the qualitative assessment of social concepts rather than the quantitative rubrics. I felt the qualitative approach provided me more space and freedom to evaluate social concepts that determine the psychology of social beings. If I was to satisfy my urge to probe and propound philosophy, I could better achieve that in the social science than in the health or natural sciences. Moreover, I remember that during my undergraduate days, my colleagues and I lamented the lack of versatility in the portfolio of medical laboratory professionals. This sometimes led to limitations in how our medical laboratory professionals engaged society. I craved for academic versatility which I think was key to our society’s development. A clear example of how critical this is; is the devastating flashback on how the social implication of a clinical Ebola trial in Ghana was neglected and how even more disastrous the “ignorant” debates bandied around was. If I have the urge to pursue a multidisciplinary development, it was probably to remedy moments like that.
Second, whilst I was contemplating a switch to the social sciences, I had the privilege of receiving a scholarship offer from the Flemish government in Belgium to study under the Mastermind program. That meant I could attain more academic scholarship in the social sciences, a scenario that will become helpful for pursuing a PhD in peace and conflict studies. Peace studies because I have a keen interest in the workings of the United Nations which has a key focus on the promotions of peace and I believe the pursuit of peace illustrates a greater picture of the human essence and gives meaning to the inadequacies of human relations. This is the path I wish to chart.
For those who know how my academic development has been, they probably are used to the fact that my life has been a “tale of two personalities”. And for those who have always impressed upon me to pursue the social sciences because they thought that was what suited me better, this is probably our dream come true. I am encouraged by your confidence in me to achieve in this field. But for those who still think I should have stayed in the health sciences, I believe that there is more to offer the health sciences than pure clinical procedure. I therefore ask you to give me the benefit of the doubt.