Amie Fornah Sankoh lost her hearing at the age of 3.
However, she has made history as the first deaf Black woman with a STEM doctorate in the country–and possibly the world.
The Sierra Leone-born Sankoh endured a tough childhood during the country’s civil war.
She lost her hearing and struggled throughout her studies.
Desperate, Sankoh’s father sent her to the US to live with his best friend–so she could find a cure.
Unfortunately, they didn’t find a cure, but Sankoh found belonging in the deaf community.
The challenges didn’t vanish, but she came to love mathematics.
“Mathematics is just very visual, and I was able to enjoy that. Anytime a person talked, I didn’t understand anything, but when they would write out the formulas then I could see it and I could see each step of how to solve that problem.”
According to BlackNews.com, Sankoh excelled in high school, developing a passion for maths and then chemistry.
She especially liked chemical reactions and formulating predictions around them.
Sankoh’s loved for science led her to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Here, she earned an associate degree in lab sciences and later a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.
This Deaf Black Woman Has Shown Her Resolve for STEM
Following her college graduation, Sankoh worked in a lab.
Later, she enrolled in the Ph.D. program at UT Knoxville and studied how plant-pathogen interactions affected hormones.
However, being deaf meant communicating with her fellow researchers became a challenge–one that the pandemic worsened.
However, her mentor and coworkers were there for her and did their best to minimize those obstacles.
After overcoming various challenges, Sankoh made history when she graduated.
She became the first deaf Black woman holding a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
“I feel very, very proud for persisting. But I’m very happy that I am able to inspire the next generation of deaf scientists, so they can see their potential.”
Hats off to Amie Fornah Sankoh: this deaf Black woman is among the most driven persons we’ve seen.