Celebrating Black Excellence: Doctoral student Emmanuel Marfo maximizes HPV vaccine uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa

Marfo credits mentorship of Faculty of Nursing emeriti and faculty with supporting emerging body of research.

19 February 2021

The love and care Emmanuel Marfo received from his family and friends growing up in Ghana influenced his passion to care for others, and eventually led to a career in Nursing. After earning his Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Ghana School of Nursing and Midwifery, he made the journey to Edmonton, Alberta where he’s currently pursuing a PhD with the University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing.  

Marfo’s research focuses on maximizing HPV vaccine uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through fostering HPV vaccine awareness. He’s optimistic the outcomes of his research will advance knowledge in the field of HPV-related cancer prevention in an under-served region of the world.“Its world-class nurse researchers, global partnerships, reputation, and diversity among students and professors enticed me to pursue my graduate studies at the Faculty of Nursing,” says Marfo, who completed the Master of Nursing program in 2020. 

“Inadequate knowledge, misconceptions, and prevailing socio-cultural practices are known barriers to HPV vaccine uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa,” explains Marfo. “By identifying preferred HPV education and awareness strategies in SSA, we can demystify those social misconceptions surrounding HPV vaccines by providing adequate information supported by current evidence on HPV and HPV vaccines.”

Marfo’s research will involve a close examination of the association between Ghanaian nurses’ sociodemographic characteristics and HPV vaccine knowledge and acceptance. Marfo will use this data to assess the likelihood that Ghanaian nurses will recommend HPV vaccines to patients based on their preferred educational strategies for HPV awareness creation.

Nurses have the opportunity to provide critical education on HPV vaccines during routine encounters with patients. Marfo hopes his research findings will inform policy and strategies on nurses’ involvement in HPV-related cancer prevention interventions in Ghana. 

Marfo — who is currently under the supervision of Faculty of Nursing Assistant Professor Dr. Shannon MacDonald — says his research project wouldn’t have been possible without the influential mentors he had throughout his academic journey. Drs. Joanne Olson, Pauline Paul, and MacDonald suggested and supported his MN capstone project on HPV in Sub-Sahara Africa, which further helped in the development of his research area of interest. 

Dr. Linda Oglivie — an active emerita within the faculty -- was instrumental in the development of Marfo’s interest in advocating for equitable health for all populations. Dr. Oglivie has a strong interest in international and intercultural nursing and from 1999 to 2006 was Canadian Director of a CIDA-funded project to develop and implement an MPhil(Nursing) program at the University of Ghana.

“The work enlightened me on the crucial roles the Faculty of Nursing played in capacity building for Ghanaian nursing education. Dr. Ogilvie's involvement in the successful development and implementation of the master's project in Ghana motivated me to investigate how her works could inspire future nurses in a  historical nursing project,” says Marfo. 

He plans to one day establish a non-governmental organization with a specific focus on providing equitable access to HPV vaccines in Sub-Saharan Africa while collaborating with international organizations on policies that advance the wellbeing of vulnerable populations. 

During and beyond Black History Month, we are proud to honour the contributions, achievements, and lived experiences of Black community members. 

In honour of Black History Month, the University of Alberta recognizes alumni who are doing great things in Alberta and beyond. Click here to read their stories: https://www.ualberta.ca/equity-diversity-inclusivity/initiatives/black-history-month.html