In April 2011 six Malawi health care professionals came to UCSF as part of a Fulbright project titled Promoting Global Health by Strengthening Capacity for Education of Health Professionals through a Professional Fellows Program Involving Faculty from Zambia, Malawi, Alabama, and California. Dr. Lynda Wilson, University of Alabama-Birmingham, proposed to Sally Rankin, Associate Dean for Global Health at UCSF School of Nursing, that they collaborate on a project to prepare the next generation of health care professionals to address health disparities and provide health care for marginalized populations in Zambia, Malawi, and the US.
This collaboration has led to wonderful experiences for all involved; in July six UCSF faculty (Mary Barger, Ellen Scarr, Susan Kools, Wendy Max, Jerusalem Makonnen, and Sally Rankin) went to Malawi to continue work with their April fellows and to meet the next cohort of six professionals who are coming to UCSF in November 2011.
The goals of the project are: 1) to address global health needs by strengthening education of health care professionals; 2) provide opportunities for faculty to take part in reciprocal fellowships; and 3) to promote mutual understanding and sustainable partnerships between health care professionals.
During their stay in San Francisco, Malawi Fulbrighters spent time observing faculty and students working in health care settings where people are frequently marginalized. These included (among others) the Glide Memorial Clinic, the Gamble Institute (a program for parolees), the Young Women’s Program for pregnant teens, SFGH’s midwifery program, Oakland school based health centers, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and other individually designed observational experiences. For example, one of our Malawi fellows is a health economist and he worked closely with health economists at both UCSF and Stanford.
Other activities in the one-month long program included 3 days in Washington, DC and 2 weeks at the University of Alabama-Birmingham where inter-professional educational strategies and resources were presented.
All of the paired faculty duos have worked together on projects that have ranged from developing school-based health clinics in Malawi to developing the first PhD program in nursing in east Africa. We eagerly await our second cohort and look forward to returning to Malawi next June 2012.
Malawi has many problems: poverty, fuel shortages, power outages, famine, and struggles to maintain a civil society and democratic governance. We witnessed firsthand protests that resulted in 18 deaths, fuel shortages that necessitated 15 hours waiting in line for diesel, and hospitals struggling to take care of acutely ill infants with malaria, teenagers with HIV, and an overburdened nursing workforce.
We commend our partners in Malawi who struggle daily to improve the health of Malawi’s 15 million people.