Meet the Scholars: Maningbè “Mani” Bérété Keita-Fakeye
Maningbè “Mani” Bérété Keita-Fakeye is a PhD candidate in health services research and policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a member of Health Policy Research Scholars Cohort 2018.
Before we begin, tell us a little bit about yourself and what your research interests are.
The “tell me about yourself” question is always interesting to me, because everyone has so many layers. In any given moment, a person is always deciding which layers to present. In this context, I’d say that I’m someone who loves learning. Not just learning in school but, importantly, learning in life. I’m originally from Guinea, West Africa, grew up in South Carolina, and have spent the last decade in Baltimore, Maryland. That continuum alone has and continues to provide such a rich background for learning about life and the way the world works.
Some have also called me an old soul. I agree, more or less. I also think that I, like so many others, have simply seen and experienced many intense moments at such early life stages that I now approach life in a more thoughtful manner, because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Nevertheless, I love dancing, puzzle games, and would probably farm mangoes as an alternate occupation.
Regarding my research interests, I’d like to improve society’s experience of “work” and “aging.” We spend so much of our lifetime working, and every minute we are growing older. That alone carries significance.
What’s the story behind why you’re doing what you’re doing?
The answer to this question could be a book if I allow the “learner” in me to properly psychoanalyze every facet of my decision-making process. But I’ll be considerate. Perhaps, some of this is related to my “old soul.” I’m named after my Dad’s grandmother, and to this day he calls me “M’mah” or “Grand-mère,” the Malinke and French words for “grandmother.”
If you think about it, life is actually pretty short, so we need to make the most of it, especially when it comes to concepts that carry so much weight or take up so much time. This means redesigning the work experience to promote health and well-being, and reframing aging as a process where a person can contribute to society in new and different ways.
Tell us about a project you are currently working on that you are excited about.
I assume you mean a research project; however, I’m most excited about the personal development and pseudo-metamorphosis that I’m experiencing. I’m at a point where I’m learning to value myself not just in “theory,” but in practice. I’m able to reflect on events and actions and apply lessons learned to the future. I’m also becoming more comfortable with envisioning different ways of accomplishing a goal, and that’s pretty awesome.
For people unfamiliar with your research area, what is one piece of information you think is important for them to know?
In life, you’re to some degree either working or aging, or doing both.
Who is a researcher you admire and why?
I admire quite a few researchers. I’d say a common thread is their passion for their work, humanity toward others, and understanding of the need for balance in life.
How has being an HPRS Scholar helped you during your time as a doctoral candidate?
HPRS has encouraged me to be courageous in my work, because what we do takes a special form of perseverance. Through HPRS, I’ve learned how to deconstruct incredibly complex issues into actionable components, and I understand how to identify stakeholders’ incentives and frame issues in a way that supports problem-solving. I’ve become more comfortable with verbalizing my values, goals, strengths, and areas for improvement. Importantly, I can envision myself in positions of leadership and as a steward of resources.
In the RWJF HPRS program we have worked with you to help you think further about using your research to develop policy. If you could use your research to change any policy, what policy would it be?
All employees who provide care to an older loved one need PAID family leave. That is all. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
OK, here’s a fun question to wrap things up. (Please choose one of the three questions below.)
**I actually love all three of these questions!**
If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
Well, there are countless places I’d love to visit. My trips to Brazil, France, and Zambia (especially Victoria Falls) were all incredibly poignant. I would love to visit Mali, Egypt, Nigeria, Japan, and Spain. At the risk of sounding cliché, besides a literal physical place, I just want to be able to access a state of mind that is filled with peace and purpose.
If you had a talk show, who would your first three guests be?
Yes, welcome to the “Maningbè Moment”! Or “Maningbè Show”? Perhaps, the “Maningbè Mindset,” or some version of all three. Again, I’ll interpret this question in my own way and also consider past figures. I would love to speak with Sundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire. I would also like to interview the Dalai Lama and Oprah.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want to have with you?
Oh, no, we don’t have time for “stranded,” haha. I’ll just reframe this as an extended vacation. I’m assuming that food, water, and shelter (with modern utilities and accessories, of course) are taken care of. Are Wi-Fi and accompanying devices on the table? I sure hope so. Not sure how long I’d last without some video, puzzles, music, and audiobook streaming services. Other than that, maybe items to play basketball. I know this is way more than three items, but I’m confident I could negotiate the deal.
Thank you so much for your time!