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A Path toward a Healthier Homeland

For Kumba Seddu (Sierra Leone, UWC of South East Asia, Colby ’17), the deadly 2014-15 Ebola crisis in her homeland may have pointed her toward a pathway for making a difference.

“Initially, I wanted to be a physician,” Kumba says. “But the outbreak showed a lot about the public health system in my country — so now I’m interested in both medicine and public health. I want to gain the particular skills to go back and help, so that if the next outbreak happens in the future, we will be better prepared.”

A biology major with a concentration in neuroscience, Kumba worked for her “Jan Plan” course last year at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, near Colby’s campus. There she worked to better understand the basis of the gene mutation that causes Parkinson’s disease.

“Understanding the genetic basis of the disease can help doctors diagnose it before symptoms start to show,” Kumba says. “So it can really help patients, and their families. To better understand genetic sequencing, and the mutations it can cause, has become a passion of mine.” She has continued to pursue her passion with course work and an independent study.

Kumba was president this year of Colby’s African Society Club. During the Ebola crisis, she and other club members organized a benefit dinner, whose proceeds they sent to both an international NGO, Partners in Health, and a grassroots organization in Sierra Leone, Power Women 232. “I will be going back home after I finish my studies,” she promises. “Thank you for believing in me,” Kumba wrote in a message to the Davises. “I hope one day I will be able to help another person achieve their educational goal.”