Getting to Know Our Global Health Corps Fellows

By Chelsea Bailey | May 6, 2013

Madalitso Tolani and Andrea Garces, Global Health Corps fellows are working with and learning from EGPAF staff in their placement in Malawi.

EGPAF

Each year, the Global Health Corps pairs fellows from the United States with international counterparts and places them in health care organizations around the world.

This year, GHC Fellows Mwitwa Chileshe and Lauren Smith were placed in EGPAF’s country office in Zambia, while Andrea Garces and Madalitso Tolani were placed in EGPAF’s Malawi office. Continue reading to learn about their experiences working with the Foundation in the field.

EGPAF: Zambia Mwitwa Chileshe & Lauren Smith

Mwitwa Chileshe

A native Zambian, Mwitwa Chileshe decided to join Global Health Corps because he wanted to supplement his background in mathematics with first-hand experience of how data strengthens a nongovernmental organization (NGO).

He said he was particularly interested in joining EGPAF because of the chance to work with Zambia’s electronic health records system.

“As a monitoring and evaluation fellow, my job is to make sure the clinical staff are able to use the data-generated systems for planning and to mentor the clinicians on how to use the system,” Mwitwa said.

He adds that his placement at EGPAF has allowed him to learn more about the realities of gathering health systems data in the field.

“With the knowledge that I’ve gained, I feel like I’m on a path to becoming a leader in the public health field and that’s one of the things I treasure about this experience.”

Mwitwa decided to dedicate his career to increasing access to HIV/AIDS care after witnessing how preventative care and treatment saved the lives of some of his family members.

“It is my strong belief that no Zambian should die of HIV,” Mwitwa said. “The medicines exist, the money is here, and everyone should have access, no matter their circumstance in life.”

Lauren Smith

Before joining GHC, Lauren Smith was a health systems and policy evaluator for a firm in Washington, D.C. But after years of reading about health programs and suggesting ways to strengthen their outcomes, Lauren said she felt something was lacking.

“I realized I was missing the satisfaction and fulfillment of doing more on-the-ground work and seeing the impact of successful evaluation within the nonprofits,” she said. “I got interested in global health as a way to expand my world view.”

Much like Mwitwa, Lauren says she was drawn to working in EGPAF’s office in Zambia because of the electronic health system.

“Even though I’m using the same methods, it’s been more engaging doing the field work,” Lauren said. “Day-to-day, the work is a lot more challenging, and it takes a lot of emotional and physical energy. I’ve been working harder than I have in the past, but I’ve enjoyed it so much more,” she said.

In addition to her work as a program monitor, Lauren said she’s had the opportunity to work with a team of HIV-positive teens who serve as mentors for the community.

“I’ve gone to these meetings and they’re vibrant and lively and excited to learn about HIV. It’s been incredibly rewarding,” she said.

“I prefer to (perform) evaluation work at the field level,” Lauren said. “There’s something about it, the level of engagement that I didn’t have before when I was getting a bird’s-eye-view.”

EGPAF: Malawi Madalitso Tolani & Andrea Garces

Madalitso Tolani

Madalitso graduated from the University of Malawi with a Masters in biostatistics, but says that after a year of working, he knew he wouldn’t be satisfied simply teaching theories.

“I wanted to use the skills I had to make a change,” he said. With that in mind, Madalitso applied for the Global Health Corps and has never looked back.

“I had the theoretical background, but I didn’t have the practical education,” Madalitso said. “It’s been exciting to go out into the field and collect the data and give feedback. You see yourself having an impact on the population.”

Madalitso, known as “Mada” to his EGPAF colleagues, is the point man for research activities in Malawi. He works with colleagues in D.C. to collect and analyze data for country-based projects. Madalitso said he knew immediately that he wanted to work with EGPAF.

“I saw the great work being done at EGPAF in Malawi and I wanted to be a part of that organization,” Madalitso said. “I’ve developed passion and love for the organization and I would love to stay and continue the work that we’ve been doing here.”

Andrea Garces

Chicago native Andrea Garces spent five years in domestic health and child injury prevention before she realized she had a craving for adventure.

As a monitoring and evaluation fellow for EGPAF in Malawi, Andrea performs data entry and analyzes prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs throughout the country.

Andrea says that learning more about Malawi’s culture has been unexpectedly rewarding.

“Most of the EGPAF staff is local, and most of the work I do is out in the community,” she says. “I’ve learned so much here being able to work alongside people and the impact of the services we do here and how we’re able to make a big difference.”

Andrea adds that she’s really benefitted from having Madalitso, a Malawi native, as a co-fellow.

“I think the co-fellowship really helps the success of the organization, “she says.” I can’t imagine how it would have been without Mada. It’s been great to rely on him for knowledge and support.”

After leaving GHC, Andrea said she plans to continue to dedicate her career to health and human rights.

“I want to be at the forefront of program implementation,” she says. “Being able to see it firsthand has made me want to go more in depth. The Global Health Corps fellowship stresses health care as a human right and I truly believe that.”

The Global Health Corps (GHC) provides opportunities for young professionals to get hands-on experience affecting change in health outcomes throughout the world. The program nurtures a sense of leadership and responsibility among its fellows, with the hope that they will grow to one day be leaders on the frontier of global health systems.


Chelsea Bailey is Communications Assistant for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.