The Success Journey Of This Ghanaian From A Cleaner In The United States To The White House, Now Set To Become A Neurosurgeon

by Duke Magazine

In 2009, Kwadwo Sarpong moved to the United States from Ghana. He had been granted a green card to enter the United States and was already enrolled as a first-year university student in Ghana. So he planned to immediately move to a four-year university in the United States.

However, the Ghanaian student’s plans did not pan out. Sarpong quickly understood that transferring to a four-year college in the United States was nearly difficult. Meanwhile, he needed to support himself and his family back in Ghana, so he washed hospital floors and worked at Walmart for his first three years in the United States.

He met a physician while washing hospital floors, and he received some sound advice that would help him alter his life for the better.

“At the hospital, there was a surgeon who saw me one time and started talking to me.” ‘Hey, you’re a little young to be cleaning,’ he said. ‘What do you want to do?’ In a recent interview with Georgetown University Medical Center, Sarpong recounted.

He claimed that he expressed his desire to study to the surgeon. The doctors encouraged him to begin his education at a community college. Sarpong took the advice and enrolled in Georgia Perimeter College, which is now Georgia State University’s Perimeter College.

Following that, a professor encouraged Sarpong to participate in an eight-week summer research program with Georgia State University. During the program, he got the opportunity to research breast cancer and looked at “the modification of various pharmaceuticals using an organic chemistry synthesis,” he added. Thanks to the program, he discovered his affinity for study quite quickly.

He transferred to Emory University in 2013 after gaining research experience at a small college. Sarpong came across statistics regarding women in STEM, particularly in African countries, while undertaking neuroscience research at Emory, and how they are significantly underrepresented in the sciences. He felt he had to do something about it right then and there.

He enlisted the support of his students, and the two of them surveyed Ghana, discovering that the majority of women in STEM areas were unaware of non-medical employment options. “Most women had no concept you could acquire a Ph.D. in biology or own a lab,” he remarked. “They were primarily concerned with the medical side.”

Sarpong was inspired by the study results to co-found the African Research Academies for Women (ARAW), a nonprofit organization that assists Ghanaian women in STEM fields other than medicine. Sarpong, who is now the CEO of ARAW, was instrumental in establishing Ghana’s first fully financed eight-week summer research program, which provides undergraduate students with professional development and hands-on experience in the sciences.

Sarpong graduated from Emory University with a degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology in 2015, but he decided to postpone medical school to focus solely on ARAW.


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“I wanted this nonprofit to succeed, so I took two years off to focus on it,” he explained.

His dedication to his charity organization during college and afterward generated positive outcomes. President Barack Obama welcomed Sarpong to the White House for the United States-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. He visited with certain cabinet officials to talk about research, and the invitation helped ARAW acquire popularity and support.

Sarpong was taken aback when he received an invitation to the summit only a few months after launching his group. “At first, I believed it was a hoax, so I ignored it,” Sarpong told The Christian Journal. “However, after contacting a Ghanaian official, I found it wasn’t a scam, and I gained the opportunity to attend again, which I did.”

That wasn’t the end of it. Sarpong also presented at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, the White House United State of Women Summit, the Center for Global Health Research Symposium at the University of Virginia, and the African Economic Forum at Columbia University. His nonprofit flourished as a result of the publicity he received.

“The summer research program started with five students, and subsequently it grew to ten or fifteen students per summer.” “Our program has graduated more than 50 pupils,” he noted in 2019. “At the moment, the majority of our students are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees all around the world.” It’s incredible.”

However, while working for his organization, Sarpong saw the importance of focusing on oneself and continuing his studies. He came to Georgetown in 2017 through the Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies (GEMS) program, still wanting to pursue medicine. He obtained the skills he needed to apply to medical schools, including Georgetown, through the program.

“I selected Georgetown because I can continue to work on research.” It, in my opinion, presents the best opportunities. “Finding a research mentor was not difficult for me,” he stated.

Sarpong, who was the only member of his family to immigrate to the United States from Ghana, is grateful for how far he’s come and for the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.

He plans to become a neurosurgeon after a lot of hard work and devotion, making him the first physician in his family, he added.

President Barack Obama presented Sarpong with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also named to Emory University’s 40 Under 40 list and received the Face2Face Africa Young African Committed to Excellence award.

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