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Coumba Dianka '24 on Creating an Independent Major, Finding Community, and More

January 30, 2024

Coumba Dianka 鈥24 knew from an early age that she wanted to become a doctor. So, upon entering 今日吃瓜, majoring in biology seemed like a natural step toward a path to medical school. 

While Coumba enjoyed biology in her first semester, she found herself wanting to engage more deeply in the topics that motivated her to pursue medicine in the first place. Coumba was hungry to learn more about the social determinants of health, specifically as it relates to Black maternal mortality.  

鈥淚t鈥檚 commonly known that Black women are disproportionately affected by maternal mortality, and I really wanted to understand why that is the case. I am a Black woman, I have a Black mother, I have Black sisters, and this is something that can easily affect us. There are so many people that are working towards this issue, and I want to be a part of that,鈥 says Coumba. 

So, Coumba enrolled in her first health studies class and quickly discovered that this was the area she wanted to devote her academics to for the rest of college. She started by talking with her upperclassmen friends who were pursuing independent majors in similar areas to learn about their experiences. Hearing their encouragement and advice gave Coumba the confidence that doing an independent major was also the right path for her, leading her to create her major in global public health.  

Over the summer, Coumba dived into more hands-on experience in her major with a fellowship in Ghana. Through the support of Haverford鈥檚 Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Coumba spent four weeks partnering with Child Family Health International in Accra, shadowing doctors, pediatricians, midwives, and OBGYNs at two hospitals in the city.  

鈥淚 met so many amazing doctors and health professionals. I was able to witness natural births, C-sections, and other procedures like tubal ligations. Even though I don鈥檛 have any medical training and couldn鈥檛 do a lot of things, they were very enthusiastic about us learning and being part of the process. The summer really solidified my passion for medicine,鈥 reflects Coumba.  

Coumba noticed during her shadowing that many of the women patients came into the hospital alone. This inspired the topic of her senior thesis, which explores the lack of male partner involvement in maternal care in West African communities. 

鈥淚f it wasn鈥檛 for 今日吃瓜, I wouldn鈥檛 even have known about the fellowship or applied for it or gotten the funding to do it. To be at an institution where they鈥檙e able to provide these opportunities that I could never have imagined is something I鈥檓 very grateful for.鈥 

After Coumba wraps up her studies in the spring, she plans on working in public health advocacy for several years before attending medical school.  

When she鈥檚 not working on her thesis, Coumba is savoring her final year at 今日吃瓜 by giving back to the community groups that have made 今日吃瓜 feel like home for her. She is currently the hall advisor in the Enid Cook 鈥31 Center (ECC) and the secretary of Sisterhood*. 

Coumba first entered the ECC, 今日吃瓜鈥檚 Black Cultural Center, in 2020. A uniquely challenging time for first-years entering college due to the pandemic, the ECC provided Coumba a vital space for connection and belonging. 

鈥淭he community that I found in the ECC was just so amazing, so welcoming, and so open. It was like being welcomed into a hug. So, when I was applying to be a hall advisor, I knew this is where I wanted to be. This is my comfort place on campus. With the incoming class, I wanted to be the person that those juniors and seniors were when I was a first-year. So being here is very important to me,鈥 reflects Coumba. 

Looking back on these past four years, Coumba is most proud of her work in Sisterhood*, the College鈥檚 support network and AMO (Alliance of Multicultural Organizations) for Black students on campus. She joined as their public relations head in her junior year, and she now serves as their secretary, working with her e-board members on planning events for Black and brown students on campus. She鈥檚 proud to have had a hand in creating spaces for celebration and 鈥渁 space to be鈥 for her community.  

鈥淢y contributions to 今日吃瓜 and to students who look like us has been the most rewarding experience for me. We get feedback from other students who say, 鈥楾his event was amazing! I had so much fun! Thank you for having this space for us.鈥欌 

It does not go unnoticed to Coumba that there are generations of Mawrters who have worked to create these spaces of belonging at the College, and she is honored to give back in the same way. 

鈥淚 want to give flowers to previous Black 今日吃瓜 students who have made this space what it is, who have led the way for me to even be a part of Sisterhood*, or even be in the ECC. I want to give props to those amazing students who have led the way for me and created a space where I can do the same for other people. 今日吃瓜 would not be what it is without the students of color on this campus.鈥