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Guest commentary: Barbara Bush and Dave Ryan

The global health leader of the future

By Devex Editor30 January 2013

Barbara Bush, co-founder and CEO, and Dave Ryan, founding director of the Global Health Corps. Photo by: GHC

By Barbara Bush, co-founder, and Dave Ryan, founding director of the Global Health Corps

How can a nurse in a small, over-worked community health center in rural Rwanda accurately forecast the amount of medicine she will need to treat individuals with AIDS or tuberculosis over the next three to six months? Order too much and the drugs will expire, wasting precious resources. Order too little and patients will be turned away, with potentially deadly consequences.

Ashley Canchola and Remy Nitrenganya are working with the NGO Partners in Health to address this challenge with a combination of training, technology, and management practices. Ashley, from Tucson, Arizona, holds a master’s of business administration and previously managed supply chains for a solar energy company in San Francisco. Remy, from Ngoma, Rwanda, is a recent graduate in pharmacy from the National University of Rwanda. Ashley and Remy are two of 90 Global Health Corps fellows who are applying their diverse skill sets and passion to help organizations around the world bring innovative solutions to global health challenges. They are the global health leaders of the future.

At the Global Health Corps, we recruit, connect and train these future leaders. We believe that the global health leader of the future is not necessarily a doctor or a nurse. The complexity and scope of today’s challenges require people with diverse skill sets from a range of fields. The global health leader of the future will, however, be an innovator, a mobilizer, and a servant — committed to partnership and learning by reaching across borders and sectors.

The global health field is ripe for innovation. Perhaps the greatest global health challenge of the future is building systems to deliver high-quality care in poor communities in innovative and cost-effective ways. Life-saving medicines in the developing world have never been cheaper. But they need to be delivered to those who need them, when they need them, where they need them. That challenge demands more doctors and nurses, to be sure, but it also demands innovators from all backgrounds. Our partner organizations are already leading the way. And they need help.

The MASS Design Group is applying the newest design strategies to build hospitals in Rwanda that facilitate efficient, dignified care. They require skilled and creative architects. The Clinton Health Access Initiative in Uganda is designing programs for rural hospitals to ensure that infants born to HIV-positive mothers are quickly identified, diagnosed and, if necessary, initiated on treatment. They require visionary program managers and data analysts. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is helping community health centers in Malawi implement electronic medical records systems. They require adaptable computer scientists and information technology consultants. They need the global health leaders of the future.

Like all effective innovators, the global health leader of the future will be connected. She will mobilize a movement of like-minded friends and peers in order to share ideas and inspiration. Because the challenge is global, the movement too must be global. At our annual training at Yale University this past July, 90 fellows from 12 countries came together to learn from practitioners and begin building the bonds that will extend for decades, across continents, towards a common goal. We see our fellows strengthen each other, sharing challenges and ideas at our retreats and over social media every day of the year.

These global connections generate results. Our fellows at the Inter-American Development Bank learn from program managers in Burundi and Uganda to help fight neglected diseases in Mexico. Our fellows at the PACT Project apply lessons learned from community health programs in rural Haiti and Peru to deliver quality AIDS care for the poor in Boston. And our fellows everywhere draw inspiration and support from the knowledge that their friends are rising above similar challenges every day. This sense of community is vital to growing and sustaining a movement in global health. The global health leader of the future will be a member and leader of this movement. She will establish a new health paradigm.

Finally, the global health leader of the future will be a servant. She will stand with, and learn from, those she seeks to serve. She will recognize the privilege that it is to serve those in need. Her top priority will be delivering results. We believe that the most inspiring, life-changing service experiences are those that achieve real results. We are inspired not when we see a problem, but when we are able to contribute to solving it. That is why we seek to put our fellows in positions to serve effectively. It is why we only work with organizations that have real needs, and only fill those needs with people who have the ability and the drive to deliver. The global health leader of the future will thrive when placed in a position to serve.

We believe we’ve seen 216 of the global health leaders of the future in the Global Health Corps in the past four years. We know more are needed. We are confident that we will see 110 more this year. We encourage you to join the movement.

Apply by Feb. 3 to become a Global Health Corps fellow. Join the Devex community and access more in-depth analysis, breaking news and career advice – and a host of other services – on international development, humanitarian aid and global health.

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