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I Want to Change the World by Building Integrated Health Services From an African-Centered Perspective

Fanta Doumbia , MSW Candidate

  • Practice Method:
    Interpersonal Communication
  • Concentration:
    Mental Health
  • Scholarship:
    Olivia P. Maynard and S. Olof Karlstrom Fund for Community-Based Research

Fanta Doumbia is a first-generation Ivorian-American. Her parents immigrated here a generation ago from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Fanta has a passion for community organizing and has been active in her community since she was 16 years old. Many of the organizers who mentored her were teachers and social workers. “I thought, I want to do this for a living!” she says. Fanta was drawn to the U-M School of Social Work by its New Leaders in African Centered Social Work and Integrated Health Programs. “It has been empowering for me,” Fanta says, “to learn what African Centered Social Work is and how I can use the essential knowledge and my skills to enhance the development of my community.”

“I struggled with the idea that, when I serve “my people,” I had to stick to a Eurocentric perspective,” Fanta says. “Now I know that I can serve my community with ‘nontraditional practices’ that adapt to my clients’ strengths and needs.” She laughs. “I thought, Wow, an actual approach I can use to better serve my community! It’s empowering for me! Many communities of African-Americans have a distrust of social services because they don’t know where the social worker is coming from. But being from this community”—Fanta’s field placement is in Detroit, her birthplace—“and sharing these experiences, I deeply connect, and I want my community to know I am for our well-being. And I can better do that with the African-centered approach.”

Fanta now lives with her family in Flint, Michigan, but she says that, “being a Detroit native comes with a special charisma and joy. Detroit has a history of resilience and strength. My field placement is at the Development Center’s McKinney Center, which is opening an integrated health clinic. It’s on the block where I grew up! I have the opportunity to serve my community right now rather than waiting until I graduate, and I am very grateful.”

Fanta has been helped along her journey be receiving the School’s Olivia P. Maynard and S. Olof Karlstrom Fund for Community-Based Research.

“The scholarship is powerful for me,” Fanta says, “because I lived through the Flint water crisis. Many Flint residents are traumatized. They find it hard to trust the system again. We’ve had physical and mental health issues, so the integrated health curriculum at the U-M School of Social Work is essential to my learning—looking at physical well-being and at the mental health aspect.” It shows me the importance of providing integrated health services in such communities. It can help the community become more comfortable seeking mental health services when it’s in a shared space with physical health.

“The scholarship help I have received is connected to my identity and passion, so it feels like destiny. My scholarships are making it possible for me to prepare myself to effectively work towards a in building sustainable communities within the Flint and Detroit communities.  I am forever grateful that we have such generous donors investing in my education and dreams.

“Finally, as a nontraditional student, with a child, the scholarships gave me opportunity to go to school and not have to worry about paying back loans after graduation. I have the privilege to focus on my studies and not  work while I am in Graduate School. It makes it possible for me to balance being a mother with my studies.”

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