Hannah Akuffo on Summer in P1
Hannah Akuffo, Adjunct Professor of Parasitology at Karolinska Institutet, will be broadcasted on Tuesday August 16, on Sommar i P1 (Summer on P1), one of the most popular shows on Swedish radio.
Hi Hannah, what did the editorial team of ”Sommar i P1” say when they first contacted you?
“Not quite unusually, I was on duty travel out of Sweden when the editorial team first tried to contact me in early February 2016. This time I was in Bonn as a member of the review panel for German-Africa Cooperation Projects in Infectiology for the German Research Foundation. Because of the intensity of the sessions I had turned off all my various modes whereby I could be contacted. Thus the various attempts by the Sommar i P1 editorial team to reach me did not bear fruit. The team thus resorted to ringing my husband, who finally managed to contact me and told me they wanted to be one of the speakers in Sommar in 2016.“
What was your response?
”’Why me? What do they know about me? Who would want to listen to me?’ I am too shy. I do not like to speak about myself to people I do not know very well. Then I pulled myself together and dug deep and convinced myself that for reasons unknown to me the Sommar i P1 team are giving me this honour, so mine is to say simply ’yes thank you’”.
What will you be talking about on your Sommar?
”If I tell you too much, it will take away any chance of surprise! I will talk a bit about my background, how I ended up in Sweden, my deep interest in parasitic diseases, especially leishmaniasis, my current work, some somewhat funny things and some serious issues related to getting on here in Sweden.”
How will you present yourself, the short version?
”As a Leishmaniac. For once a Leishmaniac, always a Leishmaniac.”
Will you reveal anything that you never revealed before?
”Since I have never been a ’fika’ loving person, being more of ’my coffee on my desk’ type, most people I encounter outside my family and my close friends know very little about me. For most of my life I have found it more interesting to listen to others. However, I realize with age that I hear myself speaking more than before. So I guess I will reveal more of me and few of the the things that formed me.”
Will you be talking about your research?
”I will say a thing or two about my research and my work at Sida which aims to assist universities in low-income countries to develop environments that are conducive for doing research, so they can better ask their own questions and have the skills and means to address their problems.”
What has been the outcome of preparing the show?
”The whole process of developing the programme made me have to do quite a bit of introspection. It was sometimes hard, other times uplifting to find some answers about things which I have not quite understood in the same way previously. From a point when ’I thought how can I speak for such a long time’, I landed at the time where I had to ruthlessly cut many of my darling bits, almost leaving me in tears. Great therapy I say!”
Anyone in particular that you are hoping for will be listening?
”The main person that I want to listen to me is that young black girl who may be at a point where her self esteem/confidence may have been knocked about for whatever reason, who may be doubting her abilities, for her to get hope and an urge to use the gifts given her, whatever they may be, to try to be the best version of herself that she can be. Of course I want as many young people and early career people from all parts of the world to be encouraged by my Sommar”.
Text: Madeleine Svärd Huss