In a major lecture delivered on December 13, 2011, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby described vital ways that United States health care professionals are working in developing nations to train more doctors, nurses and midwives and to support medical research.
He concluded, “When I talk about doing development differently, these programs focused on laboratories, physicians and nurses are prime examples of what I mean. They build on Africa’s greatest resource of all—its people. They are fostering indigenous capacity to strengthen health systems in a sustainable manner.”
Another big step forward in “doing development differently” took place on March 13 when Dr. Goosby joined with Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams and others to launch the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP).
“The Partnership is an innovative approach to address the need for more, and better-prepared, health care professionals in countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Goosby.
The partnership is formed with Global Health Service Corps — a nonprofit co-founded by Dr. Vanessa Kerry, its Executive Director and a Mass General physician, to raise awareness of GHSP among qualified professionals and to provide technical support to the program, its volunteers, and the teaching institutions overseas.
Peace Corps will work alongside PEPFAR country teams to engage Ministries of Health and of Education to identify priority training institutions to increase capacity and strengthen the quality and sustainability of medical, nursing and midwifery education and clinical practices.
The program will begin by placing 10 to 12 health professionals in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda. Participants will serve one-year assignments through Peace Corps Response, a program that offers high-impact, short-term assignments for qualified Americans.
Although this partnership is an exciting innovation for the Peace Corps, the commitment to health which it reflects finds deep roots in our history, as Director Williams described at the launch on March 13:
“From the moment John F. Kennedy first publicly suggested even the idea of a peace corps, before it even had a name, health care was in our DNA. Issuing an impromptu challenge to students during a 2 a.m. campaign stopover at the University of Michigan, he asked, ‘How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?’
“Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961. In announcing the order before TV cameras, he departed from the written announcement before him to once again affirm that volunteer nurses and doctors were to be a vital part of the story: ’We are going to put particular emphasis,’ he said, ‘on… men and women who have skills in teaching, agriculture, and in health.’”
Director Williams observed, “this partnership…brings us full circle to that vision; but conforms it to the priority on sustainability.”
The partnership will take on fuller definition this summer, when invited physicians and nurses from academic health centers and other centers of expertise in the United States and the three initial countries in the pilot program will gather in Washington, DC on July 21 to further plan the contours of its work. The application process is expected to begin in September 2012, and the partnership expects to begin sending health care professionals abroad in the summer of 2013.
We look forward to seeing the first of these Volunteers take flight.