Despite being one of Bob Jones University’s newest resources, the Center for Community and Global Health already offers opportunities for service across the world from Greenville to Ghana.
According to Dr. Amy Hicks, a faculty member in the Division of Health Sciences, the story of the CCGH began in 2018 when Bob Jones University students took a medical outreach trip to the Ivory Coast through Medical Missions Outreach. Hicks convinced the organization to allow the students to educate the patients on better health practices during a health clinic, something MMO had never done before. MMO now conducts public health education on most of their mission trips because of the success BJU students experienced.
Dr. Bernard Kadio, a faculty member in the Division of Health Sciences who is from the Ivory Coast, came to BJU after seeing the students’ work. Shortly after Kadio joined the University faculty in 2019, he asked Hicks what reputation she wanted their division to have. “Most of all, I wanted us to be known for the fact that we had a heart to see the vulnerable populations around the world,” Hicks said. Specifically, Hicks hopes to reach those who face financial and social barriers to receiving healthcare.
Hicks said this goal is taken directly from a Bible verse. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)
Hoping to accomplish that goal, Kadio and Hicks proposed the CCGH to the administration. After it was approved, the new resource launched in August 2020.
Hicks said she hopes students from many different majors will become involved in the CCGH. The Center needs students with gifts in languages, education, marketing, counseling and other diverse areas, not just those interested in health science.
Currently, the CCGH offers opportunities to perform research and engage in health education both locally and in foreign countries. Locally, the Center has partnered with the Greenville Homeless Alliance to educate people in need. In May, 16 team members will travel to Ghana in order to conduct research on childhood malnutrition.
Benjamin Brewer, a graduate assistant in the Division of Health Sciences, has assisted Kadio and Hicks in planning the trip to Ghana. Brewer volunteered to be a member of the team in the fall of 2020, but he began to take on more responsibilities after asking if he could help do anything to prepare for the trip. Brewer said this trip is meant to be the first of a recurring annual series of research trips that build on each other. He thinks this model will have a longer-lasting impact on the people of Ghana by ministering to their physical and spiritual needs.
“At the beginning, we’ll be conducting a lot of surveys, focus groups and that kind of thing to specifically target the problem of childhood malnutrition,” Brewer said. “As we’re able to conduct more research and develop more interventions for them, every year we can hopefully go back and give them more and more comprehensive solutions that are appropriate to their cultural context.”
The team will be working with Aiyinase Baptist Academy in Aiyinase, Ghana, to spread the word about their visit. However, this trip will be the first time Bob Jones University faculty and students have planned the itinerary for a research trip without the help of another organization.
“We need to be leaders. We don’t need to sit around and be thinking that we’re not as smart, good enough or well-trained.” —Dr. Amy Hicks
Hicks said she hopes to add similar research trips to Togo, Peru and an undetermined location in Asia in the near future. Eventually, she hopes to have research teams visiting each of the six inhabited continents. Hicks believes trips like these will increase participants’ empathy for people across the world and allow faculty members to publish peer-reviewed material.
The Hope Christian Medical Center in the Ivory Coast is one of the CCGH’s biggest projects. Hicks expects the Center to have a permanent presence within the next five years. “We would have opportunities for students to do semesters abroad . . . at the Hope Christian Medical Center while they’re learning.”
The CCGH also sponsors other events that increase awareness of public health issues. For example, the Center held a symposium on COVID-19’s lasting effects on April 22.
Hicks believes these activities will give students the confidence to pursue leading positions in their workplace. “We need to be leaders,” Hicks said. “We don’t need to sit around and be thinking that we’re not as smart, good enough or well-trained.”