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KU Medical Center poised to make a bigger push into the world of Fulbright programs

October 03, 2016

By Greg Peters

Abiodun Akinwutan

The University of Kansas Medical Center is poised to make a major push into the world of Fulbright Scholarship programs, thanks in part to the arrival in January of Abiodun Akinwuntan, Ph.D., MPH, MBA, dean of the KU School of Health Professions, and a renewed interest in international education at the medical center.

Sponsored by the United States government, the Fulbright Program was created by Congress in 1946 to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. The program is designed to increase the exchange of ideas and understanding between scholars from the United States and other nations.  

KU and Fulbright   

This year, six University of Kansas' faculty and administrators are Fulbright Scholars, making KU one of the top universities in the nation for 2015-16, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Grant recipients teach and conduct research oversees as well as contribute to an international exchange of ideas and solutions. The university recently announced that five current KU-Lawrence students or recent alumni have been selected for prestigious Fulbright awards 2016-17.  

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Ph.D., is among the Fulbright alumni at KU, having conducted postdoctoral research in cross-cultural psychology in Denmark as part of a Fulbright Foundation fellowship. In late August, Martha Baird, Ph.D., APRN, CTN-A, an assistant professor in the KU School of Nursing, was named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster in public health but has not been matched with a project.  

On the student level, two KU Medical Center students have been recently involved with Fulbright programs. Currently, Kirsten Devin, a third-year medical student, is in Brazil on a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Grant working at a health clinic at Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora in Minas Gerais. Another medical student, Michael Tetwiler, will be returning to finish his degree this fall after completing a Fulbright in 2014-15 in Peru.  

Akinwuntan and Fulbright   

As impressive as KU's history is with the Fulbright program, Akinwuntan wants to bring it to a higher level. Educated in his home country of Nigeria, as well as Belgium, England and the United States, Akinwuntan brings with him a host of international expertise. His Fulbright experience began when he was named a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship Award recipient in 2013-14, and he spent 10 months in 2014 working in the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, where he focused on improving physiotherapy education and research as well as the rehabilitation of neurologically impaired patients.

In February 2015, Akinwuntan was named to the 2016 Fulbright Specialist Roster in Medical Sciences. Fulbright specialists are former Fulbright Scholars who are placed on a roster of experts, and interested institutions with a need in their specialty can request the specialist to come to their country to work on a project. In this role, he will be traveling in October to the University of Akureyri in Iceland to assist in developing a neuropsychology course.  

"I look forward to establishing a strong relationship between our institutions," he said.  

In July 2015, Akinwuntan also was chosen to serve for three years as a member of a four-person peer review committee for all Fulbright Grant applications to West and Central Africa. During the grant review process, all the panelists must agree on the worthiness of an application in order for it to be passed on for a final funding decision, which is made by the U.S. Embassy in the host country.  

Akinwuntan also serves as a Fulbright pre-departure expert for students and scholars traveling to Africa. In June, he attended an orientation in Washington D.C. for students and scholars heading to Sub-Saharan Africa.  

"There are three things people going to Africa need to know," Akinwuntan said. "Never go to a country with just one plan because things happen. You need to have a secondary plan and a tertiary plan. Next, when you are traveling, always have a kit ready in case you have just one hour to get ready to leave."   

Akinwuntan's knowledge and experience should prove invaluable to students and faculty at KU Medical Center, and his involvement in several Fulbright activities should raise the awareness about KU Medical Center both nationally and internationally.  

"He is extraordinary, said Kimberly Connelly, senior international officer with KU Medical Center's Office of International Programs." He will be an incredible asset for promoting Fulbright to faculty, administrators and students."    

KU Medical Center's Office of International Programs   

When Connelly arrived in 2013, the Office of International Programs opted to take the lead in advising students and faculty on the KU Medical Center campus who are interested in Fulbright programs. Previously, advisers on the Lawrence campus had that responsibility.  

To that end, Connelly and Zachary Rogers, assistant director for Outbound Programs, have been training with a consultant for the past two years to learn more about international fellowship and scholarship advising. The Office of International Programs currently sponsors a monthly informational meeting about Fulbright and other international fellowship and scholarship opportunities the second Tuesday of every month.  

Connelly and her team are exploring a variety of options to maximize his expertise, including:

  • Conducting lunchtime presentations on his experiences with Fulbright
  • Acting as a role model to spark interest in Fulbright among faculty and administrators
  • Supporting KU Medical Center's efforts to play host to more Fulbright Scholars
  • Leading or participating on a campus committee to help advise faculty and students interested in Fulbright programs
  • Submitting recommendation letters in support of Fulbright applications
  • Advising and support faculty interested in Fulbright programs
  • Mentoring Fulbright advisers in the Office of International Programs.  

For more information regarding Fulbright and other international programs, go to the Office of International Programs website, or email Alexa Smith or Zachary Rogers. Akinwuntan can be reached through the Office of the Dean for the School of Health Professions.

Last modified: Jul 26, 2018