UTM student Irenius Konkor awarded Connaught International Scholarship for 2020-2021
University of Toronto Mississauga PhD student Irenius Konkor has received a 2020-2021 Connaught International Scholarship. The prestigious award, which is provided as a top-up of $10,000, helps graduate units at U of T attract ad retain the best international talent.
“I was incredibly excited to hear the news.” says Konkor, who is pursuing a doctorate in geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga under the supervision of Assistant Professor Vincent Kuuire. “If I didn’t have this scholarship, I’d be forced to divide my time between a part-time job and studying.”
For his PhD, Konkor hopes to investigate what researchers call “the double burden of disease,” or the concurrence of two different types of illness in a population or an individual. In particular, he’s looking to understand how infectious diseases (like HIV/AIDS) and chronic diseases (like cancer or diabetes) affect populations in low-and middle-income countries like Ghana.
Konkor’s research would make a significant difference to public health policy in low- and middle-income countries. He explains that chronic-disease-related deaths have risen steadily in Ghana in recent years—but not due to a higher incidence of chronic disease than in developed countries. “The health facilities in these countries were developed primarily for infectious diseases and maternal health. So, there isn’t that infrastructure to be able to manage chronic diseases.” With his work, Konkor wants to explore how governments and health authorities can integrate the two disease components for better public health outcomes.
Finding a mentor in Dr. Kuuire was a large part of what prompted Konkor to come to the University of Toronto. The UTM professor not only agreed to supervise Konkor’s work, but also encouraged his new student to apply for the Connaught International Scholarship. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Vincent Kuuire for the support he gave me and continues to give me here at the university.”
Growing up in Ghana, Konkor developed an interest in geography as a high-school student. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree in geography and rural development from Kwame Nkrumah University (where he maintained a first-class average for the entirety of his four years of study). Despite his stellar academic record, Konkor very nearly didn’t pursue graduate studies owing to financial constraints. When he eventually found a funded opportunity for a master’s at Western University, his uncle, Prof. Gariba Abdul-Korah (“may his soul rest in peace,” says Konkor), paid his application fees.
Now the second-year doctoral student says he’s no longer worried about meeting the cost of living in Toronto. “This has facilitated my work in so many ways. It has helped me settle down and given me the ability to focus. I want to thank all the people who work to ensure that this funding exists.”