Margaret Gyapong

Dr. Margaret Gyapong’s most recent award gleams as the sunlight enters her office at the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ho, Ghana. The award, from the 2020 European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Prizes, says “Outstanding Female Scientist presented to Professor Margaret Gyapong.”

In addition to her responsibilities as Director of the Institute of Health Research at the university, Gyapong serves on numerous steering committees and working groups for organizations such as the World Health Organization and The Task Force and has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Gyapong works tirelessly to make sure policy makers and program implementers know the impact of research, particularly in her field of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

“I want to see a world where social science and implementation research is seen as critical to the work on NTDs,” said Gyapong.


“I also want to see women work hard to achieve great heights in whatever field they find themselves in.”

In 2015, when the opportunity arose to attend the first-ever international workshop on female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), Gyapong was asked to present on FGS, a topic with which she was not familiar. Nonetheless, her passion for improving the health of women and girls and her research approach to lymphatic filariasis, a NTD causing lymphatic swelling of the limbs, guided her presentation on FGS.

Affecting more than 56 million people and considered by some the most neglected issue in women and girl’s reproductive health, FGS is an infectious disease caused by a waterborne parasite that affects the urinary and genital tract. Since FGS has symptoms similar to other gynecological problems, women and girls are often misdiagnosed and mistreated. If left untreated, FGS leads to an increased risk of HIV, infertility, and stigma.

Through her research, Gyapong noticed that more attention was being given to the clinical aspects of FGS and not the social science aspects of FGS. 

Gyapong’s first publication on the social science perspectives of FGS gained a lot of attention and set the stage for her current work with the FGS Accelerated Scale Together (FAST) project operating in Ghana and Madagascar, which aims to reduce the morbidity and stigma associated with FGS through integrated services, community awareness, training of health personnel, and distributing treatment in collaboration with NTD programs.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted many disease control programs, which also paused research related to those efforts.

“There were delays with collecting baseline data which disrupted cross-country visits,” said Gyapong. Instead of visiting communities directly, teams then conducted monthly online calls.

Gyapong has presented her findings at many trainings and workshops, including some supported by The Task Force’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC), which works with partners to support operational research on NTDs.

In November 2021, the NTD-SC, with support from UK aid from the British people, supported Gyapong’s project to launch and adapt a new FGS training package for healthcare providers in Ghana and Madagascar.

“Currently, we are engaging with training institutions and people from sectors such as education and water and sanitation,” said Gyapong. “I want clinicians and gynecologists to pay a little more attention to women who present at their facilities with signs and symptoms of FGS and ask them about where they have lived and their access to water.”

One day, there will be a generation of women who will never have to worry about FGS and can have a chance at a healthy and productive life because of the outstanding work and commitment of scientists like Gyapong.

“Women juggle many roles and face many obstacles but I hope I have been an example for up-and-coming female scientists to see that it is possible and to not give up,” she said.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Gyapong and Mariana Stephens.

Photos courtesy of Margaret Gyapong and Mariana Stephens.

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