Jacob Olupona and Muhammad Pate, Nigerian scholars, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAA&S). 


Olupona is a professor of African religious traditions at Harvard Divinity School in the United States.

Pate, on the other hand, is the Julio Frenk Professor of the practice of public health leadership at Harvard Chan School.

He served as minister of state for health under former president Goodluck Jonathan and is currently the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global director of health, nutrition, and population.


The pair were among 269 “outstanding individuals” elected into the academy for the year 2023.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780. The academy honours excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavour to examine new ideas, and address issues of importance to the nation and the world.

Those elected into the academy are expected to work together “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”


In a statement on Wednesday, David W. Oxtoby, the academy president, said this year’s members were drawn from academia, the arts, industry, policy, research, and science, and include more than 40 International Honorary Members (IHM) from 23 countries.

“With the election of these members, the Academy is honoring excellence, innovation, and leadership and recognizing a broad array of stellar accomplishments. We hope every new member celebrates this achievement and joins our work advancing the common good,” he said.


Olupona graduated from the University of Nigeria (UNN) in Enugu state before proceeding to Boston University in the US where he bagged his masters and PhD respectively.


The scholar joined Havard’s faculty of divinity and the faculty of arts and sciences in 2006. His earlier research ranged across African spirituality, ritual practices, spirit possession, Pentecostalism, Yoruba festivals, animal symbolism, icons, phenomenology, and religious pluralism in Africa and the Americas.

Olupona has also won several awards including the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion in 2018.

Pate, on the other hand, was born on September 6, 1968, in Misau LGA of Bauchi state.

Upon graduating from Barewa College, Zaria, Pate went on to study at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) medical school in Kaduna state.


He graduated from ABU and worked at the institution’s teaching hospital from 1990 to 1991 before moving to Gambia at the British Medical Research Council Laboratories.

Pate later moved to the United States where he did a residency training in internal medicine in 1998 and a fellowship training to qualify as a consultant in infectious diseases, at the University of Rochester, New York.

He is an American board-certified medical doctor in both internal medicine and infectious diseases, with an MBA (health sector concentration) from Duke University USA and a masters in health system management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical.


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