KNUST gets first female Pro Vice Chancellor

BY: Daniel Kenu

One of Ghana’s accomplished female academicians, Prof Mrs Rita Akosua Dickson, made history when she was elected recently as the first ever woman Pro Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

She shrugged off the challenge from a male-dominated selection process to rise to the top, following the exit of Rev Prof. Charles Ansah who is due for retirement.

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The new model of picking qualified persons to the position replaces the old system where the Vice Chancellor selects whom he deems fit to work with.

About her

Prof Dickson had her GCE Ordinary Level at St Monica’s Senior High School and Advanced Level at Wesley Girls’ High School. She is also an alumni of the University.

She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy in 1994 and continued with her graduate studies leading to the award of a degree in Master of Sciences of Pharmacy (MPharm) in Pharmacognosy in 1999.


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Prof Dickson was then appointed a lecturer the following year at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

In 2003, she was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship to pursue a doctorate programme at the King’s College London, University of London, UK. She seized the opportunity to successfully complete her programme and obtained a Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (GCAP) from the same university.

She returned to teaching at KNUST in 2007 and was promoted to a Senior Lecturer in 2009 and further to an Associate Professor in 2014.

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What she does

Prof Dickson is a Phytochemist whose work spans the areas of bioactive natural products in the management of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

She has been devoting her time to natural products research with anti-infective, wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and antidiabetic properties among others; based on their ethnopharmacological usage.

Her research works led to the isolation and structure elucidation of several bioactive natural products, including cassanefuranoditerpenoids, coumarins, alkaloids, glucosides and flavonoids with potentials as leads in drug discovery.

Conviction

She firmly believes that Africans can reduce the continent’s disease burden by focusing on and exploring the use of its flora and fauna to generate lead compounds and standardised extracts for drug development in the fight against diseases. 

Prof Dickson and her family.

Prof Dickson is keen about phytopharmaceutical analysis and quality control of herbal medicines to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Publications

Prof Dickson has successfully supervised a number of MPhil and PhD students and has published extensively in her research area.

She has attended and presented research papers at several local and international conferences and has over 50 publications in peer reviewed International Journals to her credit.

She serves as a reviewer for several journals in pharmacognosy, natural products and phytochemistry as well as a reviewer for South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the KNUST Research Fund (KReF).

Besides, Prof Dickson has been actively involved in the evaluation of papers of academic staff for promotion in both local and international universities and has been an assessor and external examiner for PhD thesis locally and internationally.

She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Ethnomedicine, Pharmacognosy (IJEP) and editorial member of the International Journal of Science and Research Methodology.

Positions

Prof Dickson has been the Head of Department of Pharmacognosy for three terms from 2009 to 2013. Before her appointment as Pro-Vice-Chancellor, she was the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and also acted as Provost of the College of Health Sciences in the absence of the Provost.

She is also a board member of the Ghana Pharmacy Council and Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. Before her appointment, she was the Chairperson of the Education sub-committee of the Pharmacy Council and serves as an examiner in the Ghana Pharmacy Council Professional Qualifying Examination for pharmacy graduates.

She also served on the Continuous Professional Development Technical Committee of the Pharmacy Council.

International membership

Prof Dickson belongs to several local and international organisations, including the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA), Society of Medicinal Plant Research (GA), International Society of Ethnopharmacology (ISEP), Phytochemical Society of Europe (PSE) and American Society of Pharmacognosists.

Leadership qualities

Her people-oriented approach to leadership is underpinned by her commitment to both staff and students in providing them with opportunities for their development.

She is receptive to new ideas and creative thinking from both staff and students.

Prof. Dickson is married to a banker, Nana Dickson, with whom they are blessed with four girls.

She enjoys inspiring and mentoring the next generation through talks and engagements as she motivates them to build their leadership skills and competencies.

She is passionate about the youth and enjoys encouraging girls to take up careers in science.

Prof Dickson loves to cook and share traditional meals with friends and family and is happy to spend some time in the gym when she can afford it.

She worships at Grace Baptist Church at Amakom, Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region.