Sample Commonwealth Application Essays

Praise Adeyemo
10 min readAug 1, 2019

Provide a statement explaining:

How your proposed study relates to a particular development challenge or need at the global, national, or local level; How your proposed study relates to development issues and challenges in your sector; How your proposed study relates to your chosen CSC theme under which your course is offered; The audiences and users of your proposed study; How you will apply your new skills and qualifications when you return home; The outcomes that you aim to achieve and the timeframe for their implementation; How the impact of your work might be measured

A porous health system is an obstacle to the development of any country, especially a developing country like Nigeria. Our health system is broken and infectious diseases seem to be unperturbed, after all, they do not know borders and travel easily between countries and continents. In 2014, we had an outbreak of Ebola, a viral infectious disease. Nigeria’s success in combating Ebola can be credited to the timely intervention and collaboration of private and public entities but if we had a major outbreak of another infectious disease like Marburg or rabies, I do not think we could contain it. One of the reasons is because our health sector operates in silos. All hands are not on deck working towards achieving a common goal — a sustained and improved health system.

Using Lassa fever as a case study, the rodent-to-human transmission of the disease which was discovered in Nigeria 50 years ago is poorly understood. Veterinarians who may have some of the answers are poorly integrated into the research of this disease. Rather, infectious diseases should be studied holistically from a human-animal-ecology interface. To ensure that our health sector is equipped to keep infectious diseases at bay, we need to embrace the One Health approach. Not having enough competent hands to understand disease trends as well as a collaborative approach to tackle the menace are reasons the health system needs to be strengthened.

One Health — a multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral and collaborative approach, is not just a course. To me, it is a movement. Our society needs diverse professionals contributing their own individual expertise to challenge infectious diseases in all their forms. Obtaining a Masters degree in One Health is an opportunity to equip myself and strengthen my capacity to meaningfully contribute to the global fight against infectious diseases. I currently work in a Public Health organization and it is a different ball game from treating animals and learning about the pathogenesis of diseases in animals. It is more real now. The best part is that it is more rewarding to see that I actually have a role to play as a veterinarian in ensuring the community stays healthy through research.

In 5 years time, I see myself as a part of a movement changing the narrative of the health sector not only in Nigeria but in Africa and globally. One Health is still a grey area in Nigeria. It is not well defined or structured so I hope to be able to encourage veterinarians to join the public health space as professionals who know their art and are ready to use their veterinary skills in ensuring a healthy society especially in research and policy. I hope to be able to encourage more environmental health specialists to come on-board as we make efforts to understand the ecology of these diseases. The human medics cannot do it alone. So, in a couple of years from now, the health of the people should have improved because more effective, yet determined strategic steps have been taken.

Voluntary and Leadership Experience — 500 words

“Hall chair, we saw a female student acting weird. We suspect she is a hall resident.” Those were the words of 2 hall porters as they opened the door to my room on that Monday morning. We ran out of the hostel to the scene and saw the resident rolling in the grass half-naked! The first thing I did was to call the ambulance. I assessed the scene, saw that no one was willing to help, hence I knew I had to be proactive. I assessed the victim and saw she needed urgent attention. As I bent down to help her, she bit my left thigh. Just in time, the ambulance came and she was rushed to the clinic. She was attended to and calmed down while I had my wound examined and treated. At this time, I was the university Hall Chairperson and I was responsible for about 1,100 female students living on campus.

I recount this story because it is a reminder that being selfless, performing under pressure, and always being ready to respond is what leadership is all about. I was able to handle the situation due to the skills and leadership experience I had gleaned and I am still honing from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). I have been privileged to serve the movement at various levels. I was the Youth Leader for my local organization during which I represented the Nigerian Girl Guides Association (NGGA) as a youth delegate at the 36th World Conference of WAGGGS in India in 2017. At this event, I presented a paper on Nigeria’s project centred around violence against women and girls. In 2018, I was selected as 1 of the 12 delegates of WAGGGS at the 62nd Session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women. In the same year, I was nominated by WAGGGS to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

In my fourth year in the university, I was team lead of an organization called UTIVA. My responsibilities included being a middle man between the school management and the organization, recruit students for the Project Management training and handle the finance. I owe my ability to pull all those off to my experience of being a Girl Guide. Just recently, I was selected as 1 of the 10 young women from WAGGGS’ 150 member countries to carry out a research on young women in governance. It has been an exciting journey and I look forward to gaining more research skills in the loop of activities. These opportunities came as a result of years of volunteerism, which translated into making me a leader. From being a faculty General Secretary, to being the Programs Associate at the organization where I work currently, I believe there is a way volunteerism prepares you for leadership. It is like servitude. It equips you to be able to serve and lead at the same time.

Objectives during the Award 250 words

As a Commonwealth scholar at the Royal Veterinary College studying One Health, I hope to acquire knowledge about how to control infectious diseases across the human-animal-environment interface. This opportunity will equip me to fully understand the principles that underpin these diseases in a socio-ecological setting with improving global health as the goal.

I believe social capital and the ability to build a network of genuine professional relationships is one of the most important assets a leader can have. Further, I currently work in the public health sector and this has revealed to me that this sector in any developing country, especially Nigeria, is broad and complex and as such, building relationships, establishing partnerships and collaborating are all essential to achieving impact. During my scholarship, I want to polish my networking skills and build a strong nexus of individuals. This network would be a seasoned resource to tap into in my work as a one health expert. A collaborative effort of cross-sectoral multidisciplinary leaders will come in handy to tackle diseases of global health and food safety importance.

Nigeria lacks data and quality research that can be employed in eradicating infectious diseases. This lack may be due to the scarcity of competent hands with an in-depth understanding of complex disease trends e.g. disease monitoring, surveillance, diagnosis, prevention and control. If granted this scholarship, I hope to embark on a research project which borders around a specific infectious disease endemic in Africa and the roles animals and the ecology play in its transmission.

Career Plans in the 5 years following the Award * 250 words

People who know the importance of giving back to their immediate community and their nation as a whole play a major role in effecting change across various sectors. Upon completion of my Masters degree and returning home to Nigeria, I see myself working in a place such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, ensuring the protection of the health of Nigerians across the country.

I also plan to share my experience, skills and knowledge gained with my veterinarian colleagues to help them understand the crucial role we can play in achieving a healthy world. For example, one of the largest public health projects in Nigeria, the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) program, has members from the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) on its technical and steering committees. REDISSE aims to strengthen national and regional cross-sectoral capacity for collaborative disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness.

As I grow and achieve more, I plan to influence the health system especially in policy from an executive stratum. This I intend to follow through by pursuing a dual degree in Public health and Business Administration — MPh/MBA. This dual degree will strengthen my One Health foundation and prepare me to influence the health system from a strategic and practical systems thinking viewpoint. Though I will devote my honed skill and harnessed knowledge to working on disease surveillance and epidemiology as well as health emergency preparedness, I look forward to having a significant short-term impact in Nigeria.

Long-term Career Plans * 250 words

I see myself actively contributing my efforts within the one health space on the long run. I want to keep investing in myself and seeking new ways for people from different disciplines to join efforts to ward off infectious diseases through periodic simulation exercises for both professionals and the students who will end up becoming one health champions. This would be a stepping stone in the implementation of the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide (TZG), a guide recently launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

As I grow in the space, I will also keep adding capacity to my gender activism. As a member of the world’s largest movement for girls and young women, I have seen that the female gender is at the fore of many health issues. Not so much has been done in the area of amalgamating gender and health. In as much as one health brings infectious diseases to the purview of a multidisciplinary team, I hope to be able to chip in the importance of considering gender and health as a piece.

Conclusively, after I must have gathered a wealth of experience in the field, I see myself contributing from a high level of decision-making like the FAO, OIE or WHO. Research and collaboration are not just enough to have a sustainable health system, there is a need to have individuals who know their onions making decisions that will shape global health.

Personal Statement * 500 words

I grew up in a very remote environment. I was born into one of such families that were considered elite, so the people in the community made frequent visits to our house to discuss their familial and personal challenges with my parents. It was the kind of family you could refer to as being average. I grew up hearing many sad stories ranging from inability to afford school fees, refusal to go to the hospital because spiritual homes were perceived more effective, domestic violence, to resistance to send the girl child to school. Though my family was considered to be exposed and privileged, I knew deep down that I wanted more and there had to be more to life than what I had seen and heard. The level of exposure and education in my community was below standard for so many reasons and this was evident in the way the community as a whole approached issues especially health.

Those stories sparked up a desire to see a change and be the agent. I studied Veterinary Medicine because I wanted to be different. In a typical African home, some courses such as Human Medicine, Accounting, Engineering and Law were considered as the only successful fields. I wanted to break the status quo and prove that success is not confined to a particular area of expertise. While studying, I became an activist on issues concerning equal rights and health. Veterinary Public Health lectures were always my best because I could relate to what was being taught and tie it to the greater good of the public.

I could see how I fit into the system — being able to impact and effect a change I had always wanted to see. I wanted to be able to counsel those families that would come to our house. I wanted my advice to be different from what my parents would say. I wanted a community that would bust myths and break the stereotypes. I did not want to be in tandem with harmful health solutions. I wanted to be able to prove that Veterinary Medicine was not just about dogs and cats, as perceived by my community including my parents. I wanted to be able to contribute whatever skills I have acquired to ameliorating pain, alleviating suffering and contributing to the wholesome health of my community. And Veterinary Medicine offered me skills to do these and more.

Doing all this was not easy. Being a girl child with these dreams was difficult as girls are still stereotyped and conditioned into roles based on their gender. It had to be a deliberate choice to succeed! My choice to enter the public health space upon graduation from the university is to live up my dreams — lightening the darkness engulfing the thoughts of the people in my community.

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Praise Adeyemo

I enjoy writing. Veterinarian by training, with a focus on global health especially how to tackle infectious diseases from a human-animal-ecosystems interface.