UGA student Edmond Fomunung wins Merage Foundation fellowship

University of Georgia Honors student Edmond Fomunung wins Merage Foundation fellowship to follow his “American Dream”

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia Honors student Edmond Fomunung has been awarded a Merage American Dream Fellowship. A senior cellular biology major from Katy, Texas, he is the third UGA recipient of the two-year $20,000 scholarship for academically outstanding undergraduates who are immigrants to the United States. With his fellowship, Fomunung plans to enter a joint program to obtain his M.D. and master’s degree in public health.

“I am pleased that the Merage Foundation has chosen to recognize Edmond’s accomplishments with this distinguished accolade,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “His experiences and hard work have earned him this high recognition, and he stands as another shining example of the quality of the student this university produces.”

The fellowship program, established by Paul and Lilly Merage, provides funding for recipients to pursue graduate studies, study abroad or internship opportunities-any educational or professional advancement to achieve their individual American dreams.

Fomunung was one of 12 students chosen from across the U.S. from a pool of candidates who were nominated by partner universities. These 22 institutions, which can submit up to three nominations per year, include UGA and private universities such as Columbia, Harvard and Stanford.

Fomunung, who was born and raised in Cameroon, has spent his time at UGA working on public health-related research projects. He credits Pamela Kleiber, associate director of UGA’s Honors Program, for introducing him to undergraduate research. During his first two years, he participated in the apprentice program through the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO). He then was selected as a teaching assistant during his junior year, supporting and mentoring the next group of apprentices.

“Immigrating to America from Cameroon as a senior in high school, Edmond Fomunung has seized every possible opportunity to realize the ‘American Dream’ for himself and for others around him,” said Kleiber, who coordinates the CURO programs. “He is an inspiration to all who meet him and definitely a young man on whom we can pin our hopes for a better world.”

While a CURO apprentice, Fomunung investigated the mechanism of how the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum invades its host, causing malaria. He has continued this research, working in the laboratory of David Peterson, a professor of infectious diseases in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He says this experience has developed his interest in infectious diseases research as a career choice.

“Edmond Fomunung is a bright, articulate student with a genuine interest in medicine and public health,” said Peterson. “While working toward his goal of a career in medicine, he has also devoted time to mentor other students. He is truly deserving of this award.”

Fomunung also has been a campus leader, serving on the Honors Program Student Council and the Student Health Advisory Committee. Within the Athens community, he has been a tutor at St. Joseph Elementary School and a mentor in an after-school program at the Thomas Lay Community Center.

“I am humbled to be a recipient of this fellowship,” said Fomunung. “Not only is this fellowship a reward for my past accomplishments, but more importantly, it is a conviction in my potential to provide opportunity to others and make a difference in their lives. I hope to be able to live up to that expectation.”

Fomunung said his other interests in cardiovascular diseases research and cardiac surgery as possible career pursuits evolved after spending a summer studying with Benedict Lucchessi, a professor of cardiovascular pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School. His 12-week research experience was made possible through a Charles Ross Summer Research Fellowship for Minority Undergraduate/Graduate Students, a highly competitive and prominent award. He also has participated in New York University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

“I am pleased, that for a third year in a row, an Honors student has been selected for the Merage fellowship,” said David S. Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program and chair of the campus Merage selection committee. “Edmond is a special person who is destined to give back to society, both at home and abroad, in many positive ways.”

The Merage American Dream Fellowship is the latest national award earned by students in UGA’s Honors Program in recent months. Two students were named Rhodes Scholars, one was selected as a Truman and Udall Scholar, and one received a Goldwater Scholarship. Only three other institutions-Columbia, Stanford and Yale-have at least one Rhodes, Truman, Udall and Goldwater Scholar.

For more information about the Merage American Dream Fellowship, see www.meragefoundations.com/mfad.html.

For more information about UGA’s Honors Program, see www.uga.edu/honors.