Professor (Mrs) Rita Akosua Dickson, (PhD, MPharm, GCAP, BPharm, FPSGH, FGCPh, MCPA) is an alumna of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana. She served from October, 2018 to July, 2020 as the 21st Pro Vice Chancellor of KNUST, and the first female in the history of the University to have occupied this elected position.
She began her basic education at the Akantome Primary School in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, through Royal International School, Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Professor Dickson with Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board scholarship, then proceeded to the St. Monica’s Secondary School in Mampong-Ashanti. The apex of her secondary education was at the Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape-Coast, Ghana, where she took the GCE Advanced Level examinations, which qualified her to study pharmacy at KNUST. She completed the programme and graduated in 1994. She was then invited by the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, KNUST, to undertake her national service and subsequently a Teaching Assistantship position at the Department, alongside her Pharmacy Council required hospital internship at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana.
With acquired consciousness of her career aspirations, Professor Dickson further pursued research graduate studies leading to the award of Master of Pharmacy degree in Pharmacognosy in 1999 at KNUST. Her hard work and commitment to duty got her the opportunity to be appointed a lecturer in 2000 at the Department of Pharmacognosy, KNUST. With a desire to pursue academia and become a professional researcher, Professor Dickson received a Commonwealth Scholarship award in 2003 to study for a PhD degree at Kings’ College London, University of London, UK. Being mindful of the need for other relevant skills and competencies for her chosen career as an academic, she used the opportunity to study at Kings’ College a parallel programme in education and acquired a Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (GCAP). She returned to teaching and research at KNUST in 2007 and got promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer in 2009, and further to Associate Professor of Pharmacognosy in 2014. As a matter of personal philosophy to be a life-long learner, Professor Dickson, between 2011 and 2012, won a Commonwealth Academic Fellowship and spent some time at the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of London, UK, as a visiting scientist researching into bioactive natural products besides being a Novartis Fellow in collaboration with Seeding Labs in the United States.
Professor Dickson is an accomplished Phytochemist whose scientific knowledge and research expertise have impacted the international scientific community in terms of training, mentorship and scientific appraisals. Her research work spans the identification and development of bioactive natural products as standard medicines for the treatment/management of communicable and non-communicable diseases with emphases on anti-infective, wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, antidiabetic, leishmanicidal, pediculocidal and cercaricidal properties, based on the ethnopharmacological knowledge of selected medicinal plants, as well as bioactive bacterial Multidrug-Resistance (MDR) modifying agents and efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) from natural sources. She has recently expanded the scope of her research activities to include food security by exploring bioactive natural products with potential as pesticides and larvicides. Her research output includes the isolation and structure elucidation of several novel bioactive natural products belonging to the following phytochemical classes among others: cassane furanoditerpenoids, coumarins, alkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids and triterpenoids with potentials as leads in drug discovery. She is also keen about phytopharmaceutical analysis and quality control of herbal medicines to ensure their safety and efficacy, with the conviction 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 standardized extracts for drug development in the fight against diseases.
Professor Dickson’s research mentorship has led to the training of a number of MPhil. and PhD students, some of whom are currently employed in renowned public universities in the country including KNUST, and research centres in Ghana. She has actively engaged the global scientific community with her research contributions through attendance of conferences to present research papers, publication of research in peer reviewed journals and writing of books and book chapters. Currently, she has over 80 published scientific articles and conference proceedings to her credit. In addition, she has authored/co-authored five books and book chapters within the domain of her expertise. She is very visible on renowned academic platforms such as Research Gate, Google Scholar and Scopus with research impact of over 24,000 article reads and more than 700 citations in various scientific disciplines. The international scientific community has therefore interacted with her research and academic expertise through reviewer invitations, editorial board memberships, appointment as external examiner/assessor for other Higher Education Institutions and evaluation of academic documents for academic staff promotions. She serves as a reviewer for several journals in pharmacognosy, natural products chemistry and phytochemistry, as well as the South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the KNUST Research Fund (KReF). She is currently the Editor in Chief for the International Journal of Ethnomedicine and Pharmacognosy (IJEP) and editorial member of International Journal of Science and Research Methodology (IJSRM). As part of her professional networking and knowledge transfer partnerships, Professor Dickson holds membership of the Society of Medicinal Plant Research (GA), International Society of Ethnopharmacology (ISEP), Phytochemical Society of Europe (PSE) and the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP).
Beyond the classroom and research laboratories, Professor Dickson has evolved her academic and administrative leadership roles into a member of the senior management team of the University. This journey began with her appointment as Head of the Department of Pharmacognosy, KNUST, for three terms from 2010 to 2013. With determination and commitment, she set to work to make a difference with the tremendous support of colleagues at the Department and the entire Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (FPPS), KNUST. Professor Dickson was subsequently elected as Vice Dean, and ultimately, the Dean of FPPS on two occasions (2016-2018), emerging as the first female to be appointed to that position in the history of the Faculty. Leveraging on her capacity to motivate and direct staff, with her excellent communication, inter-personal and networking skills, Professor Dickson as the Dean, was able to mobilize financial and material resources to provide the needed infrastructure to support the bequeathed premier Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) programme, as well as making teaching, learning and research in the Faculty one of the best within the University as she made use of collaborations and partnerships with stakeholders and philanthropists for assistance. While serving as the Dean, she also got the opportunity to act as Provost of the College of Health Sciences on occasions when the Provost of the College was not available on official duties.
Professor Dickson’s academic and administrative leadership contributions traverse the boundaries of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to other sectors of the University. In this regard, she has served the University on several statutory and non-statutory committees, thereby deepening her understanding of the operations and practice of leadership in the University. In terms of governance, leadership and general administration of the University, she was a Non-Voting Member of the University Council by virtue of her position as the Pro Vice-Chancellor. She was also, the chairperson for the following committees/boards of the University: Books and Publications Committee, Residence Committee, Library Management Committee, Office of Grants and Research (OGR) Advisory Board and the Estate Organization Management Committee. Her membership of the following important committees of the University also deserve to be mentioned: Finance Committee of the University Council, Budgetary Committee, Standing Committee of the University Council, University Appointments and Promotions Committee and the Executive Committee. With respect to some aspects of Staff Administration, Professor Dickson has contributed by serving as chairperson for the following committees: Administration Appointments and Promotions Committee, Senior Staff Appointments and Promotions Committee, Junior Staff Appointments and Promotions Committee, Senior Members Disciplinary Committee, Loans Committee, Students’ Financial Services Committee, Residence Committee, Housing Committee and the Accra Guest House Management Committee. She was likewise, a member of the Scholarships Committee, Welfare Services Board and Career Development Steering Team for the College of Health Sciences Career Development Centre. Her service towards improvement of academic quality in the University include being a chairperson for the ICT Management Committee, Affiliations Liaison Committee, KNUST/Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) Joint Steering Committee, Stakeholders Meetings of the Ministry of Health Training Institutions, KNUST Basic Schools Management Board, PharmD Top-Up Implementation Committee, FPPS, and membership of the following committees/boards of the University: Academic Board and College of Health Sciences Strategic Plan Committee. Other services rendered by Professor Dickson to the University include membership of the Joint University Council/Academic Board Committee on Honorary Degrees, the Quality Assurance Sub-Committee of the Institute of Distance Learning (IDL), Search Committee for the appointment of Provosts of Colleges of the University, Health Management Board of the University, and the Ghana Universities Staff Superannuation Scheme (GUSSS) Management Board. She was once a Scrutineer for election of Professorial Member of Council and Members of the Council of Convocation of KNUST.
National/ International Duties
Professor Dickson’s impact also extends to both national and international levels. Her professional expertise as a pharmacist and pharmacy educationist have been useful to the pharmacy fraternity in Ghana and beyond. As a Dean, she served as a Board member of the Ghana Pharmacy Council and Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, as well as Chairman of the Deans Forum of the Pharmacy Institutions in Ghana. She was then the Chairperson of the Education sub-committee of the Pharmacy Council. She has since been serving as an examiner for the Ghana Pharmacy Council Professional Qualifying Examination for pharmacy graduates. She also served on the Continuous Professional Development Technical Committee of the Pharmacy Council. As a fellow of the Ghana College of Pharmacists, she has served on several committees locally and internationally in the area of Pharmacy Education and Training and was a member of the Steering Committee of the Ghana National Medicines Policy Programme and International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)-UNESCO UNITWIN Centre for Excellence in Africa (CfEA) platform. She is a member of the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA). The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) has also utilized her expertise as a member of a Team for the harmonization of Pharmacy Education in the West African Sub-Region. Prof. Dickson again served as the National Coordinator of the West African Network of Natural Products Research Scientists (WANNPRES) and serves as the Country-Co-ordinator for Working to Advance STEM Education for African Women (WAAW) Foundation. She was also a member of the governing Council of the Ghana Baptist University College, and currently chairs the Grace Baptist Schools’ Board. Professor Dickson continues her service as a Visiting Associate Professor to the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Madonna University Elele, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As an active civic leader, she previously served as the President and Council Chair of the Governing Board of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), as well as a Council member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Africa Region (IPPFARO). In these roles, she advocated for the youth and vulnerable persons in the society on reproductive health and rights issues and served on the PPAG’s Programmes and Resource Mobilization Committee of Council.
On the personal front, Prof. Dickson is passionate about training the youth to become transformational leaders for Ghana and beyond through talks and other engagements. She is keen on demystifying STEM programmes for girls and enjoys encouraging ladies to take up careers in science. She loves to cook and share traditional meals with friends and family. She is happy to spend some time in the gym. She is a Christian of the Baptist denomination and worships at Grace Baptist Church, Amakom, Kumasi, where she serves as Deaconess and Marriage Counsellor.
Professor Dickson is married to Nana Sarkodie Dickson, a Chartered Accountant, and the couple is blessed with four daughters; Akosua, Abena, Akua and Afua.