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Alums team up to create global health nonprofit

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After co-founding FACE AIDS in 2005, Jonny Dorsey ’09 sought to further expose young people to careers in global health. Now on a mission for global health equity, Dorsey, Dave Ryan ’07 and Katie Bollbach ’09 have teamed up with Barbara Bush, daughter of former president George W. Bush, to found the nonprofit Global Health Corps (GHC), now in its first full year of operation.

Inspired by City Year and Teach for America, Global Health Corps engages people 30 years old and younger to use their skills to overcome today’s global health challenges. For 13 months, fellows partner with an existing nonprofit health organization to better the conditions of the community around them.

According to Dorsey, the program is aimed at improving the pipeline to global health careers. The founding team was initially united by their interests at the AIDS2031 Summit held by Google two years ago, which focused on how to engage young people in the fight against global AIDS.

“From our time at the summit and our work with FACE AIDS, what was clear is that we needed a way to empower the talented young people who badly want to use their skills to build better health systems around the world,” Dorsey said.

GHC works in a variety of locations, both domestic and international. Internationally, fellows can be placed in Rwanda, Malawi and Tanzania, while domestically, fellows can be placed in Newark, N.J. or Boston, Mass.

The two main organizations that the GHC has partnered with are Partners in Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Once placed with an organization, fellows are then matched with a partner. In foreign countries, Americans are matched with a local fellow, and vice versa. Each pair consists of one international fellow and one in-country fellow, and updates of their progress are posted through blogs at fellows.ghcorps.org.

So far, the tone of the blogs conveys that the program has been successful, with positive experiences reported from the fellows on the GHC Web site.

Dorsey cited one successful example of a pair of fellows who were working on supply chain management. In six months, they managed to develop a computer-based system for monitoring the entire drug supply in the Central Medical Store in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Previously, the paper-based system led to stock-outs, inconsistent treatment and preventable deaths.

“[One of the fellows] never thought he’d use his degree to do this service, but now he is committed to making a meaningful impact serving his fellow citizens,” Dorsey said.

Currently, the program is in its first year, with an inaugural class of 22 fellows selected out of an applicant pool of more 1,200 people. Dorsey notes that program will be expanding to support 36 fellowships in years to come.

The GHC is funded through donations from private individuals, foundations and corporations, including Google. However, funding challenges may pose a problem due to the economy.

“Many people realize that the only way we can take on these massive global health challenges is by fully capitalizing on the passion, skills and energy of our generation,” Dorsey said. “That said, the economy is pretty rough, and we do need more support.”

Fellows are trained by the Stanford University Center for Health Policy for two weeks in the summer, with the first summer training program launched last July. The coursework consists of language, culture and leadership courses.

Fellows come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, including architecture, design, and computer science, according to professor of medicine and director of the Global Health Programs in medicine Michele Barry, who is an advisor for GHC.

GHC Fellow Andrew Paterson ’06 is now working with the Access Health Initiative in Tanzania. Applying the skills learned from his science, technology and society degree, Paterson said he now incorporates his love of data and science with his interest in global health and social justice to improve the supply chain of important medicines from capital cities to rural health centers.

“I wanted to be transitioning from being just useful for the sake of being useful to being meaningful,” Paterson said.

Barry is optimistic that the organization will grow and contribute even more to the global health care access movement.

“Over the next several years, as the corps grows and its alumni take leadership positions throughout their respective countries, it will play a big role in driving resources and creating innovative programs in the global health field,” Barry said.

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