From Global Health Corps to EGPAF, Continuing to Make an Impact
Mwitwa Chileshe, a former Zambian Global Health Corps Fellow, recently joined the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) as a full-time employee. An aspiring statistician, Mwitwa joined the Global Health Corps with the hope of learning more about increasing access to HIV treatment for every Zambian. “I saw the fellowship as a vehicle that would fast-track gaining … skills, networks, and knowledge,” he said. During his fellowship, Mwitwa learned a lot – not only about HIV, but about how to stay on track and be a leader.
“While having a good education is important,” he said, “this alone does not make one an effective leader. It seems (to me at least) that the most effective leaders have developed the skills of understanding their environment, can effectively articulate their vision, and are able to mobilize and rally support for that vision.” He added that true leaders have a unique tenacity. “Great and effective leaders also have a certain stubbornness about them,” he said, “(and) they do not easily give up on their vision! They fall down and then pick themselves up again and again.”
Mwitwa experienced his first field visit only four days into his fellowship. Tasked with conducting of interviews on potential barriers to using data in the Zambian health system, he and his co-fellow, Lauren Smith, worked with a consultant and staff from the Zambian Ministry of Health. Though they had barely gotten off the plane, Mwitwa and the consultant were able to conduct all of the interviews in just three days, an accomplishment of which he’s still proud.
Mwitwa decided to take a full-time position with EGPAF because of the potential to advance his career as a statistician and because of the Foundation’s focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“I have a very strong desire (to ensure that) every parent, regardless of their HIV status, (can) enjoy the joy of having a healthy baby,” he said. “As a father myself, I know the joy of having a healthy baby and I therefore want other parents (particularly those that are HIV positive) to share (that joy).”
He’s also looking forward to learning more about how health care works in Zambia. “I will be able to gain insight into the politics, advocacy, planning, and decision making that goes on at the national levels of the Zambian (health care) system,” he said.
He’s most excited to be a part of an organization with an international reputation as a leader in the fight to eliminate pediatric HIV. “Waking up every day (to do) something you are really passionate about and being able to do so with an internationally respected organization is a combination that does not occur that many times,” he said. “EGPAF gives me that opportunity.”
Welcome to the Foundation, Mwitwa!
Jane Coaston is Media Relations Coordinator for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.