COPH doctoral student receives USF Young Alumni Award

| Academic & Student Affairs, COPH Home Page Feed, Featured News, Monday Letter, Our Alumni, Students

Dr. Joannie Bewa, who earned her MPH from the USF College of Public Health (COPH) in 2018, is about as impressive as they come.

She’s a physician, Fulbright Scholar, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeeper, United Nations Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals, public health research associate, nonprofit founder and international advocate.

And now she’s also a 2020 USF Young Alumni Award winner, an award given by the USF Alumni Association to a small and accomplished group of graduates 35 years old and younger. Those honored with the award are chosen based on their professional accomplishments and engagement with the university.

“I feel happy and humbled to be selected for one of the highest and most competitive USF awards,” said Bewa, who is currently pursuing her doctorate in maternal and child health at the college. “Receiving this award is the result of the contribution made by family, faculty and mentors both in Benin—my country of origin—and the U.S., my adopted country, toward my personal and professional success.”

Bewa’s passion is women’s reproductive health and gender equality. “I’ve been practicing this passion for more than a decade,” said Bewa, “as a medical doctor, nonprofit executive, researcher and global advocate for sexual and reproductive rights.”

COPH doctoral candidate Joannie Bewa, a physician who received her MPH from the COPH in 2018, received a 2020 USF Young Alumni Award. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Bewa)

Ten years ago, Bewa founded the Young Beninese Leaders Association (YBLA), an organization for Beninese youth focused on reproductive and sexual health advocacy, empowerment and leadership. YBLA is part of a national campaign advocating for free family-planning methods for adolescents and youth in Benin.

“My COPH education builds on the medical education I received in Benin,” said Bewa. “And both have prepared me to serve as an effective and impactful medical and public health researcher and leader.”

Bewa’s work with YBLA brought her to the attention of an organization called One. Co-founded by rock star Bono, One campaigns to end extreme poverty and preventable disease around the world by 2030.

“They found the work I was doing in Benin—and around the globe—interesting,” explained Bewa, “and they asked me to be a spokesperson of an open letter, calling heads of states and world leaders to commit for more investment in health, gender and education. The letter later reached over 150,000 signatories around the world and was received by various head of states.” Last summer, a film crew from One traveled with Bewa to her hometown in Benin, to capture her YBLA advocacy work and community mobilization in a video series called Yours in Power.

“Women are at the frontlines of global and reproductive health, and we’re using our power to have an impact in our communities and the world,” explained Bewa. “The objective of the video was to tell my story and to inspire others to take action, like I did. It was a great experience to help inspire young professionals—women and men, from all over the world—to take action against inequalities, challenge the status quo and lead.”

Bewa hopes to earn her PhD in 2021 and then use her skills advancing reproductive, maternal and global health at a research institution or in industry, here or abroad.

“The educational program and curriculum taught at the COPH has helped me tackle public health and development issues domestically and globally,” said Bewa,  “including the most challenging ones.”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health