What do drug development & pharmacoepidemiology on the one hand and pre-tertiary education inspection and standardisation have in common? At first glance, not very much, apparently. However, one woman is bringing her expertise and discipline from regulating the manufacturing of medicines, which are vital for human survival, to another area necessary for our shared and continued existence – education.
Below, we get an insight into the make-up of one woman who is bent on ensuring that standards are met and kept, from the boardroom to the classroom.
Early years and education
Dr. Haggar Hilda Ampadu was born at the Kwahu Tafo Government Hospital to ‘neighbours’ Charles Ampadu and Mary Ampadu of Kwahu Nteso in the Eastern Region. The first child of three, she was a sociable child.
Aged seven, the family moved to Accra, ostensibly to have better economic opportunities. There, Hilda began her education at the Methodist Nursery School at Abeka Lapaz, as a very sociable child. Recounting her earliest memories of school, the self-described talkative says that her amiable character endeared her to teachers and fellow learners alike.
“I remember enjoying my time in school,” she says, this is despite the family scarcely having an adequate supply of electricity at home, leading to her oftentimes reading and doing her homework off the illumination from the fluorescent bulb from her neighbour’s house.
She then attended the Harrow International School, also at Abeka Lapaz, where she remained from kindergarten to year six. She proceeded to the Junior High School (JHS) arm of the same school which was under government supervision and was known as the Abeka 4 JHS. There, she emerged as the second best student at the terminal Basic Examination Certificate Examination.
Subsequently, in 1993, she gained admission into the prestigious Wesley Girls’ High School, where she says the rudiments of discipline, excellence and being methodical were instilled.
Having an affinity for the arts, she had set her sights on becoming a lawyer. However, due to her excellent score at the school’s mandatory entrance examination, she was encouraged to take up the sciences and that set her on a course in science, pharmacy, health and now education.
In 1997, she was admitted to the nation’s premier institution of higher learning in the sciences, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) programme in Biological Sciences. Upon graduation in 2001, she departed for the United States, with the intention of furthering her education. In the U.S.A, she gained admission into Boston University, where she obtained a Master of Science (MSc) in Project Management by 2010.
Four years later, she enrolled at the Utrecht University for Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmaceutical Policy & Medicines Regulation, graduating in 2018. There, her Field Research was concentrated in Medicine Regulation/Pharmacovigilance/Pharmacoepidemiology
Upon her arrival in the U.S.A, she spent a year – beginning in 2002 – as a Clinical Data Manager (Consultant) for GSK’s Diabetes Clinical Trials at clinical research organisation (CRO), Parexel.
From there, she held similar positions as Clinical Data Manager for Addiction (Opioid Dependence and Alcohol Dependence) at Alkermes and Cardiovascular Interventions (Coronary Stents) at Boston Scientific Corporation from 2003 to 2005 and 2005 to 2007, respectively.
Hilda then assumed the role of Senior Clinical Data Manager (Consultant) for Oncology (Bone Sarcomas) Clinical Trials at ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for one year. She proceeded to the Premier Research Group, where she was Senior Data Manager for Johnson & Johnson Medical’s Orthopedics (Spine) Clinical Trials between June 2008 and May 2009. Between 2009 and 2011, she reprised the same role in Epidemiological Studies (Health/Bone Surveys) at the New England Research Institutes, Inc.
Her career followed a similar trajectory after her graduate programme in project management as she was Project Manager (Data Management) for Cardiovascular Interventions (Coronary Stents) Clinical Trials at Abbott Vascular and Project Manager (Consultant) for Oncology (Leukemia) Clinical Trials at Infinity Pharmaceuticals for six months each, from January to December, 2011.
According to her, “My intention had always been to return to Ghana after furthering my studies and making strides in my career. I had given myself a 10-year period in which to do that.”
Return to Ghana and WHO
True to form, she returned to Ghana in 2012, exactly a decade after she left. Upon her return, she joined the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Advocacy & Training in Pharmacovigilance (WHO-CC), as Deputy Director of the Ghana Office.
At the WHO, her core duty revolved around policy; Medicine Regulation Policy. Here, she offered support to 36 countries in Africa in developing medicine policies. The role required direct interventions in all 36 countries, ensuring that she visited all 36 countries multiple times to interact with the Food and Drug Authorities (FDAs), Ministries of Health and health regulatory agencies to develop policies on monitoring of medicines.
Following then-Minister responsible for Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh’s desire to model Ghana’s National Inspectorate Board (NIB) after the United Kingdom’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), Hilda was appointed to head the institution which was to become the National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA).
Originally doubtful she could succeed in the Education Sector, she soon realised that the principles of regulation – policy, implementation and enforcement were the same experience. The only significant difference was the field of operation.
Describing the transition as seamless, she said: “The same principles applies with the collection of data and using the evidence to make decisions on how schools are performing and using the operational evidence to create policies. With this, we can ensure that our standards are based on real documents and not merely hearsay.”
The Inspector-General of Schools suggests that the discipline from working in stringent environments in the U.S, which has informed her very regimented approach to duty, has contributed in no small way to her easing into the new role.
NaSIA, under her leadership, is undergoing an aggressive transformation agenda, with the goal of ensuring that learners in pre-tertiary schools in the country meet learning outcomes in safe and serene learning environments.
As one of three women heading one of the 22 agencies under the Ministry of Education, Hilda sits on the boards of several institutions. These include Ghana Health Service Council; University Governing Council of the Accra Technical University (ATU), formerly Accra Polytechnic; University Governing Council of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST); West African Examinations Council (WAEC); and National Council for Curriculum & Assessment (NaCCA), Ministry of Education.
Hilda has expressed a strong desire to return to her alma mater, KNUST, to teach at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is also keen to contribute her quota to improve regulation of medicines in the country. She is also very eager to see increased women representation in key institutions, adding that young women must not assume that they will be handed positions solely by virtue of them being women, but should be ready to put in the hard work and distinguish themselves.
Dr. Haggar Hilda Ampadu is married with two children; a son and a daughter; who is keen on becoming a lawyer.