Every year, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, UW Health Services and UW Medicine honor members of the university community who have dedicated themselves to serving those in need.
In recognition of their passion for advocacy and service, Ahoua Koné, a clinical assistant professor in global health, and Naomi Tweyo Nkinsi, a global health pathway student, were both honored with a 2022 MLK Community Service Award. This award is given to individuals or groups who exemplify Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles through their commitment to addressing community needs, particularly communities of color and low income; the development and implementation of significant programs to improve the human condition; and their outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals.
Read on to learn more about the many ways these remarkable individuals are working to create more just and inclusive communities.
Ahoua Koné, JD, MPH, a native of Côte d’Ivoire, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Global Health and co-chair of the School of Public Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee where she works closely with the Office of the Dean to promote anti-racism within the school. Ahoua is a mentor to many students. She also co-teaches the core yearlong MPH workshop course that focuses on cohort building and cultivating understanding of power, privilege, positionality, and racism in public health.
Ahoua has developed and led health research and community empowerment projects locally and internationally, including in Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Ghana, and China. From 2005 to 2020, she was the principal investigator on several large-scale UNICEF and CDC funded HIV care and treatment implementation projects in Côte d’Ivoire, including a model integrated care and treatment project covering the northern regions. She is a founding member of the Institut de Recherche et d’Actions en Afrique (IRAA), an Ivorian-based health and research organization.
As a Black woman, a community activist, and a lawyer, Ahoua is actively involved in social justice and community development projects working with like-minded individuals and organizations to challenge racism and inequality.
Naomi Tweyo Nkinsi
Naomi Tweyo Nkinsi was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to parents from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Cameroon, a country where access to physicians can be limited, a mosquito bite quickly went from an annoyance to a life-threatening illness when Naomi’s mom contracted malaria during her pregnancy. The care her and her mother received continues to be a source of inspiration for Naomi, who moved to the United States with her family when she was in elementary school. Her experiences in healthcare as an immigrant and a Black woman inspired her decision to go to medical school with the goal of becoming a physician-activist for healthcare equity.
Naomi graduated from the University of Washington with dual bachelor’s degrees in cellular molecular & developmental biology and public health. During her time in college, Naomi conducted research with the Genome Sciences Department on congenital contracture syndromes as well as with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital on molecular targets for lung cancer and real-time tracking systems for the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. After graduating she worked as a research technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she conducted genome wide CRISPR screen to identify potential drug targets to treat non-small-cell lung cancer. Throughout all these experiences, Naomi remained committed to her goal of advocating for minoritized students in STEM by serving as a research mentor for numerous pipeline programs, one of which she herself had been a participant of in the past.
Currently, Naomi attends the University of Washington School of Medicine and is also working toward her Master of Public Health in global health at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Naomi is a strong advocate for service learning, diversifying medicine, centering anti-racism in medical education, and ending the practice of race-based clinical practice, which continues to be common in medical practice today. She has published a paper in Academic Medicine that outlines how medical education today continues to perpetuate racial disparities in health and has been featured in NBC News, NPR, and several other media outlets for her continued advocacy work.