University of Minnesota, Master of Public Health – Maternal and Child Health, expected 2017
St. Olaf College, Bachelor of Arts in Public Health, 2014
“As a young girl in Senegal I accompanied my parents on various mission trips into the rural areas. There I noticed remarkable health disparities between the rural area and Dakar, the capital: children looked haggard and mothers appeared remarkably skinnier. I promised myself that I would earn a quality education and acquire the adequate skill set to return to Senegal to make a difference.”
After witnessing health and social injustices as a child in both her native Nigeria and her home in Senegal, Love Odetola, 22, became passionate about providing basic access to healthcare. In high school, she joined the Youth with a Mission socio-medical center in Dakar, Senegal. There, helped nurses give vaccines to impoverished children. Love later joined her high school medical team, working alongside health professionals to bring care to rural areas.
Love received a competitive $10,000 Davis Project for Peace grant to embark on a maternal/child health and women empowerment project in rural Senegal. As part of the project, Love partnered with the Senegalese government to provide potable water within Lambeneme village to eliminate the need for mothers and girls in the village to trek four kilometers daily to fetch clean water. Love also conducted a public health interactive workshop to educate the village about various health topics and facilitated a microfinance workshop to introduce women to a reputable microfinance bank.
Love wanted to empower women to make better health decisions and improve their financial status. She founded the Women for Women Empowerment (WWE) association, which not only served as a financial guarantor to nine women, but also helped the Lambaneme society understand that women don’t have to depend on their husbands to create a sustainable life for their families. As a result, St. Olaf College recognized Love with the Ken Bonde Award for her integrative scholastic work to promote justice and peace.
“My strong belief in access to basic health — perhaps by securing clean water or by knowing about dependable sources of health information or even having access to financial resources to ensure good health outcomes — deeply motivates me to continue this highly rewarding work.”
Love is working toward a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Minnesota. Her coursework will prepare her for a career advocating for vulnerable populations, with a focus on maternal and child health. Love’s goal is to improve the health outcomes of women and children around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Love has demonstrated outstanding courage and passion for justice among women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.” — Dr. Zobeida E. Bonilla, Assistant Professor of Maternal & Child Health at the University of Minnesota