Washington University deepens ties with Mekelle University in Africa

Ayder Hospital, pictured here, is the teaching hospital for the Mekelle University College of Health Sciences in Ethiopia. Washington University in St. Louis recently inked an agreement with Mekelle University to strengthen ties and collaborative research projects.

A recently inked agreement between Washington University in St. Louis and Mekelle University in Ethiopia will encourage future collaborations in education, scholarship and research between the two universities.

Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs at Washington University, and Kindeya Gebrehiwot, president of Mekelle University, have signed a memorandum of understanding that agrees to explore how to foster additional collaborations and strengthen faculty relationships.

Lewis Wall speaks at installation ceremony

Lewis Wall, the Selina Okin Kim Conner Professor in Arts & Sciences for Medical Anthropology, served as a faculty bridge between Washington University and Mekelle University. Wall, a Fulbright Scholar at Mekelle in 2014, has worked with that school’s College of Health Sciences to improve residency education in obstetrics and gynecology. In addition to his clinical work there, Wall also worked with Mekelle University on a collaborative project called Dignity Period, which ensures adolescent girls in Ethiopia have the products they need during their periods so they don’t have to skip school and can stay on top of their studies.

Wall said the recent agreement with Mekelle University seeks to expand partnerships beyond health sciences into areas of focus including language arts, law and engineering.

“Right now, the seed is planted, and we’re in the initial gardening phase to try to find the things to water and develop,” Wall said. “There are lots of WashU faculty who have been involved in Africa, but it’s a scattered effort. If we can bring a concentrated focus to bear on a particular institution in a particular part of Africa, we can make a quantum leap in the impact that we have.”


Washington University’s Africa initiative is tasked with making and strengthening research, education and innovation connections with the continent. It creates a framework from which collaborative engagements between Washington University and African universities can thrive.

“Mekelle University in Ethiopia is a distinguished institution of higher learning that has had more than 10 years of relationship with Washington University through individual faculty, primarily in the area of public health,” said Benjamin Akande, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs-Africa. “What this MOU does is provide a blueprint on how we can deepen the relationship and find ways to strengthen our mutual interest as it relates to public health and other areas of collaboration.”

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