Emory Report

April 6, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 27

Humphrey Fellows improving
world public health

Among them, the 10 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows currently in residence at the School of Public Health have studied at some of the world's most prestigious universities, worked in some of the neediest nations and devoted their careers to daunting tasks: eradicating polio in China, halting AIDS in Botswana and Trinidad, treating leprosy victims in Yemen, preventing tetanus deaths during childbirth in Ethiopia, improving the water supply in Zanzibar.

This year-on leave from established careers in their home countries-these 10 leaders have come to Atlanta to explore the best of current approaches in international public health. "I felt we were using stagnant strategies, and I wanted experiences that would help me develop new skills to improve the health of rural women and children in my country," said Shashu Araya Zegeye, a public health nurse and resource programs manager for a nongovernment development organization in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Like her Humphrey colleagues, Zegeye was selected for the fellowship after a highly competitive process that involved her country's U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Information Service and the Fulbright Commission. As resident fellows at the Rollins School, the Humphrey Fellows take classes, do directed research and establish valuable liaisons with global health experts at Emory, The Carter Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CARE and numerous other Atlanta-based institutions. When the year of study is finished, they will return to their home countries to apply what they have learned.

This unusual fellowship program-started by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978 in honor of his longtime friend, the late senator and vice president Hubert Humphrey-brings some 120 mid-career professionals to the United States each year for further study in fields such as public health, economics and finance, public policy, agricultural development, technology, journalism and communications, and urban and regional planning. The host universities are chosen competitively every five years, with all the fellows going to the same institution. Among the 10 universities selected for 1993 to 1998, the Rollins School is the only school of public health.

"For Emory and the School of Public Health, the Humphrey Fellows program is an excellent way of expanding our reputation around the world," said Philip Brachman, the school's Humphrey Fellowship coordinator. "The fellows are also an excellent resource for faculty and students throughout the University. They come to the U.S. not only to learn but also to share themselves and their knowledge and cultures with the American people."

This year's Emory-based fellows-a diverse group of men and women from Africa, Asia and Latin America-seem well prepared to adopt U.S. policies and techniques that might help them in their own countries. "I was attracted by the courses in public health policy and management, which are very relevant for my work at home, and so far the program has shown me much more than I bargained for," said Habaudi Njiro Hobona, a surgeon and hospital superintendent in Botswana who holds medical degrees from London University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. At the same time, however, Hobona expresses dismay at the financial insecurities of U.S. medical care. "It surprises me how much the U.S. health care system depends on what seems to me to be a lot of begging-this grant, that grant-rather than on a culture and a government committed to funding properly," she said.

Khami Chokani, medical superintendent for the Ministry of Health and Population in Malawi, agreed. "I was so surprised by the extreme poverty and need in the U.S., especially in the cities," said Chokani, who holds degrees from the University of Rajasthan R.N.T. Medical College and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He sought the Humphrey Fellowship to expand his health planning and management skills in serving a Malawian population that is one of the most rapidly growing in the world.

Ali Suleiman Amour of Zanzibar-an environmental engineer by training (Leeds University, England)-described the interwoven challenges of economic diversification, increased tourism and public health on his island home. "The pollution level is still quite low, but there are beaches that are no longer suitable for swimming, and some of the coral reefs are destroyed," he said. "Coming to the U.S. as a Humphrey Fellow was a way for me to learn more about water supply and these kinds of issues in a modernized, developed environment. One thing we can learn from studying and observing in the U.S. is how not to make the same mistakes."

-Faye Goolrick

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