About us

Our Story

Many people around the world suffer from enormous health inequities, and there is increasing recognition that the traditional way of educating health workers is part of the problem.    

In December 2008, a group of innovative health workforce educators met to share experiences and explore collaboration with the aim to increase the impact of academic institutions on community health and the development of more equitable health systems. Located in underserved and rural regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia, the founding members of THEnet: Training for Health Equity Network came together through a research project that sought out innovators identifying successful strategies to address health workforce shortages.

These previously isolated pioneers realized they shared common principles and approaches contributing to their successes. We created a platform for these partner schools to collaborate to build evidence on how to maximize the positive impact and accountability of academic institutions on health. By developing a comprehensive evaluation framework and community of practice, conducting research, and sharing success stories, we were instrumental in convincing schools and global policymakers that socially accountable education can increase the numbers and skills of health workers practicing in communities where they are most needed and therefore improve the health of children and families.

Click here to watch a video on THEnet’s partner schools approach to Health Equity and Socially-Accountable Health Professional Education

The Mission

THEnet envisions a world of healthy vibrant communities where all people attain the highest level of health. THEnet and its partners contribute to health equity through health workforce education, research, and service, based on the principles of social accountability and community engagement.

Mobilize

THEnet mobilizes schools around the world to use our resources and Framework for Socially Accountable Health Workforce Education to help evaluate outcomes and optimize program impact

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Advocate

THEnet advocates for socially accountable health workforce education, evidence-based research and universal human rights

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Transform

THEnet transforms the way institutions train their students for health careers consistent with community needs

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Cultivate

THEnet cultivates enduring partnerships across sectors, organizations, academic institutions, health cadres, and communities in need

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Harvest

THEnet reaps a harvest of co-creating solutions and mutual support that improve the health of children and families worldwide

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Founding Partners

Flinders University – School of Medicine

AUSTRALIA

The Mission

The Flinders University School of Medicine aims to make a positive impact on the communities throughout the central North-South corridor of Australia. Distinguished by our interprofessional approach and engagement with the global social-accountability movement, our staff, practicing health professionals and community leaders work together to improve the health of our society through health professional education, research and clinical practice.

Areas of Excellence

Indigenous Entry Scheme

A key priority of the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments is to increase the participation of indigenous people in medicine. Flinders University recognizes, respects and supports this key priority through its commitment to equity and inclusiveness in its medical program, as well as through the addition of the Indigenous Entry Stream (IES). Indigenous residents of the Northern Territory can apply direct to Flinders Northern Territory (Flinders NT) to undertake the Doctor of Medicine (MD) without having to sit the Graduate Medical Admissions Test (GAMSAT)-instead undertaking a one-year Preparation for Medicine Program prior to commencing their first year in the MD.

The IES has resulted in large number of indigenous students choosing to study Medicine with the NT Medical Program, with Flinders providing an Indigenous Pathways to Medicine Team to support students through a “personal contact” approach, providing mentoring support, fostering cultural safety and forming partnerships with key indigenous individuals and organizations. Indigenous academics, tutors, administrators, an elder on campus and reference group members all work together to provide a culturally-affirming place where students feel safe and their cultural identity is supported and respected. For more information, visit Indigenous Entry Stream.

Community Engagement

Helping to build supportive communities

The Flinders University School of Medicine’s courses are highly regarded for their integration in health services across rural and remote Australia. Medical students can undertake training across approximately one-third of the land mass of Australia, including Southern Adelaide, the Riverland, Barossa Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula, Greater Green Triangle, South-West Victoria and Central and Northern Australia. This gives our students the opportunity to build hands-on clinical skills and engage with the community they serve while instilling the values of social accountability and responsibility. Students are encouraged to work and learn in underserved areas in Australia and internationally. Flinders University’s aim to help build supportive communities has been the driving force behind the innovative education programs we have developed, such as the Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP), the Flinders University Rural Clinical School (FURCS) and the Northern Territory Medical Program (NTMP):

Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP): The community-based medical education program is based in the Onkaparinga region of South Australia, and incorporates community projects as part of the curriculum. The program combines a half-year longitudinal, community-based program with a half-year program of specialty rotations. OCEP students have had much success in developing projects that are relevant and are important to the community, ranging from projects with the aged and elderly to secondary school students. See Onkaparinga Community Education Program.
Flinders University Rural Clinical School (FURCS): FURCS supports clinical teaching and research activities across rural South Australia and Western Victoria. It runs a number of programs that focus on training students in a regional, rural or remote community setting. Such programs not only encourage students to engage with the local community, but they also aim to increase the number of Doctors posted to rural and remote areas. See Flinders University Rural Clinical School.
Northern Territory Medical Program (NTMP): Up until 2010, only medical students in Years 3 and 4 had the option of undertaking clinical education in the NT. In 2011, Year 1 of the medical program was taught in Darwin for the first time, with a cohort of 24 students enrolling. In 2012, all four year levels of the course were taught for the first time in the NT. Our school has also introduced an Indigenous Entry Scheme (IES) to facilitate greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into the medical program. See Northern Territory Medical Program.

External link to the Flinders University School of Medicine website.

James Cook University – School of Medicine and Dentistry

AUSTRALIA

The Mission

The James Cook University medical program aims to respond to the health needs of underserved populations through excellence in research, advocacy, education and service delivery. Its focus has always been on areas outside the glare of the mainstream. These include rural, remote and tropical health and the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which naturally extends to include most of northern Australia-often neglected by major policy and funding commitments especially in health. We provide a distributed, six-year undergraduate medical curriculum and currently have more than 1,000 students enrolled, many themselves from the “bush.” Our graduates are already making a demonstrable impact in terms of health-workforce shortages in the north.

Historical Background

Originally opened as the School of Medicine in February 2000, this was Australia’s first new medical school in 25 years and the only medical school in northern Australia. The original intake was 60 medical students. In 2007, the school announced a significant expansion involving a doubling of physical size under a $30 million building expansion plan. Jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, the expansion will enable the university to provide facilities for an extra 50 Commonwealth-supported medical students each year-an increase of about 50%. The medical program aims to produce graduates who can progress to medical practice and to further studies in medical specialties. The course places special emphasis on rural and indigenous health and tropical medicine.

Areas of Excellence

The rural and remote focus, and its tropical locations in Townsville and Cairns, have made the JCU medical school a beacon for people who are passionate about social justice and addressing health inequalities. Academics and researchers are attracted to the idea of contributing to our research in rural health, strengthening health systems, medical education and tropical, remote and indigenous health. Medical students are able to take advantage of placements in our teaching sites and a wide range of small towns in Queensland and northern Australia. Students have the opportunity to receive teaching with a global focus with the addition of a teaching site in Singapore. Postgraduate students can study rural and remote medicine, and health-professional education, in courses tailored to meet the needs of underserved populations. The medical school’s tropical focus means its graduates possess skills and knowledge transferable to a range of global health issues, qualities necessary for empathy with underserved populations in Australia and beyond.

Putting our money where our mouth is

JCU is a firm believer that teaching for health equity means teachers and students alike embrace and uphold the values of social accountability and health equality. Undergraduate medical students are selected with a preference for people from rural, remote or indigenous backgrounds and a strong desire to work in these communities after graduation.

Community Engagement

JCU’s own academics have shown that progress towards health equity is achieved through a mix of involvement from health professionals and community participation. An example of its commitment to community engagement is a current project involving participatory health-services planning with two small rural communities in northern Queensland: Yarrabah and Mareeba.

Yarrabah is located just 45 minutes from the vibrant tropical city of Cairns, yet it is the third-most-disadvantaged community in the state. Many households are overcrowded, have no transportation and earn less than half the median income of other households in the state. Chronic diseases, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease are prevalent in this township of approximately 3,000 people. JCU has a team working with the Yarrabah community to assist the transition to community-controlled care and to strengthen health services for the community. The project team sees its ultimate intention as the establishment of a Center of Excellence for Indigenous Training, to increase research and health delivery across a range of disciplines.

Another example is academics working with disadvantaged primary schools in Townsville and health-care providers to develop a community-health placement whereby fifth-year medical students go into primary schools to work with the children, providing health promotion activities and simple health screening, and linking them into further health care where required.

External link to the James Cook University – School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Ghent University – Faculty of Medicine and
Health Sciences

BELGIUM

The Mission

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences aims to contribute to the development of education, scientific research and social services in the context of health and wellness, both at the individual and societal level.

The faculty is inseparable from the Ghent University Hospital; because the mission, tasks and interests of both are similar, the faculty strives for optimal matching in management and policy.

The school seeks to respond to community health needs, with particular attention paid to socially weaker groups–both in Belgium and in the developing world. It collaborates with local, regional, federal and international advisory bodies in the fields of education, scientific research and health policy, and participates in the preparation and implementation of evidence-based policies.

In order to fulfill this mission, the faculty strives to have a staff excelling not only in education, research and practice but also in terms of integrity and commitment.

Historical Background

The Faculty of Medicine was, with the Faculties of Arts, Law and Science, one of the four founding faculties of the University of Ghent in 1817. Today, with 200 professors instructing 6,200 students, it remains one of its largest.

Now formally named the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, the school provides training in seven disciplines: medicine; dentistry; biomedical sciences; physical education; rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy; medical and social sciences; and speech therapy/audiology. It enjoys a close relationship with Ghent University Hospital, the largest such institution in Belgium.

The faculty, also popular for its postgraduate and continuing education programs, seeks to build a highly dynamic learning atmosphere linked to not only strict health concerns but also to what is currently happening in society at large.

External links to the Ghent University website (in English) and Ghent University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences website (in Dutch only).

Northern Ontario School of Medicine – NOSM

CANADA

The Vision

Innovative education and research for a healthier North.

The Mission

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is committed to the education of high-quality physicians and health professionals, and to international recognition as a leader in distributed, learning-centered, community-engaged education and research.

Historical Background

When the school welcomed its first MD students in September 2005, it became the first new medical school in Canada in over 30 years, and only the second new medical school in North America during a similar period.  It is the first Canadian medical school hosted by two universities, over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) apart.  The NOSM serves as the Faculty of Medicine for Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and Laurentian University in Sudbury.  The school has developed and delivers a distinctive model of distributed, community-engaged medical education and research.

The NOSM is the first medical school in Canada with a social-accountability mandate that ensures the school is responsive to the communities it serves. In addition, the NOSM is the only Canadian medical school to be established as a stand-alone, not-for-profit corporation, with its own board of directors and corporate by-laws. The school brings together more than 70 community partners; over 1,000 clinical, human, and medical sciences stipendiary faculty; and more than 200 employees.

Areas of Excellence

A distinctive feature of the NOSM is its innovative model that draws on the commitment, expertise and participation of people and communities across Northern Ontario. All of the NOSM’s medical-education programs—including the school’s undergraduate medical education, postgraduate residency, dietitian, physician assistant, physiotherapist and occupational therapist programs—incorporate a model of community engagement and highlight the interdisciplinary, geographic, demographic, linguistic and cultural realities of Northern Ontario.

A Unique MD Clerkship Experience

A principal strength of the NOSM’s undergraduate medical-education program is the introduction to clinical training that students receive during their third-year Comprehensive Community Clerkship (CCC) placement.  During the eight-month community-based, longitudinal integrated clerkship, third-year students benefit from participation in a continuity-of-care cycle under the guidance of physician teachers. Immersion in extensive, community-based environments prepares students for the rigors and rewards of family practice.

NOSM Model Proves Effective

The NOSM’s medical students and residents have proven that the training and preparation received through the school’s model is highly effective. For the third time since opening, the NOSM’s fourth-year learners matched 100 percent to their first choice residency program. The NOSM is the only Canadian medical school in more than 10 years to achieve this result. In 2008 and 2010, NOSM residents’ total scores in the Medical Council of Canada Part II examination placed the NOSM number one out of Canada’s 17 medical schools.
In addition, NOSM-trained physicians are opening practices, joining family health teams and providing locum support for communities across Northern Ontario. Sixty-five percent of NOSM residents stay in Northern Ontario after completing their training. Alumni from the Northern Ontario Dietetic Internship Program (NODIP), Physicians Assistant Program and Northern Studies Stream are also now working in communities across the region.

Community Engagement

Community engagement and participation is essential to the success of the NOSM, whose model is intended to foster reciprocal benefits arising from cohesive partnerships across the North.

At the NOSM, learners are encouraged to undertake service-learning initiatives to better meet the needs of the communities in which they serve. Through their participation in service opportunities identified by communities, learners are able to contextually experience the impact of social determinants of health and the broad range of community efforts that work to improve our communities. For community agencies, there is the ability to benefit from the involvement of energetic, enthusiastic, and committed learners.

In an unofficial capacity, NOSM learners are known for undertaking the role as ambassadors for the NOSM. They have spent their own time creating presentations and leading discussions with local youth to engage them in choosing health-related careers. Their encouragement works to empower youth to realize dreams they never thought possible.

Each year, NOSM learners have also undertaken various philanthropic initiatives. On the NOSM’s West Campus, an annual holiday concert is organized by NOSM students to financially contribute to local social services. On the NOSM’s East Campus, learners have collected toys, food and organized bake sales to support a variety of organizations throughout the region.

External link to the NOSM website.

Latin American Medical School – ELAM

CUBA

The Mission

The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) is charged with training competent, cooperative doctors who are oriented toward primary health care as a fundamental stage of their careers; who demonstrate high levels of scientific expertise and humanistic and ethical care; and who are able to take action in their home environments–according to regional needs–in the interest of sustainable human development.

Historical Background

ELAM was first conceived, reportedly on the initiative of President Fidel Castro, as part of Cuba’s humanitarian and development-aid response to the devastation caused by hurricanes Georges and Mitch in 1998, which affected several countries in Central America and the Caribbean, including Cuba. Five hundred full medical scholarships per year were offered over the next decade by the Cuban government to students from four countries–the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua–seriously affected by the hurricanes.

ELAM was opened in March 1999 and started its full medical program in September of the same year, with approximately 1,900 students in its initial classes. On Nov. 15, 1999, President Castro officially inaugurated ELAM as Havana hosted the ninth Ibero-American Summit. The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors, originating in 28 Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as the U.S., graduated in August 2005.

Areas of Excellence

Emergency Response

By the end of February 2010, 557 ELAM graduates from 27 countries had made their way to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to help in post-earthquake recovery efforts. The mobilization was in keeping with practice established in 1998, when hundreds of Cuban doctors were dispatched to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua after two devastating hurricanes. ELAM was established shortly thereafter. “Doctors willing to go where they are most needed for as long as they are needed: This is the reason our school was established,” said Dr. Midalys Castilla, academic vice-rector and a founder of ELAM, in the May 2010 edition of the WHO Bulletin.

Opportunity & Advancement

Admissions preference is given to low-income applicants who otherwise could not afford medical studies. According to Castilla, 75% of students “come from the kinds of communities that need doctors, including a broad representation of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.” In exchange for a non-binding pledge to practice medicine in underserved areas, ELAM students receive full scholarships with a small monthly stipend, graduating debt-free.

Community Engagement

For three years of their time at ELAM, students are distributed among 14 medical universities across Cuba, where clinical medicine–including patient relations–is melded with public health to build capacities for addressing health needs on community and individual levels. Students are assigned patients, under supervision, as early as their third year. The fourth clinical year may be spent in Cuba or, in some cases, in interns’ home countries under the tutelage of Cuban medical professors. “This has the advantage of familiarizing interns with the health and social picture they will find when they graduate,” said ELAM rector Juan Carrizo, in the May 2010 WHO Bulletin. “It also allows them to reconnect with their health system, communities and cultures.”

During summer vacations, many ELAM students are involved in community service projects at home. For example, in 2010 a dozen ELAM students from the U.S. spent their holidays working with Native American tribal leaders and the University of New Mexico to understand conditions on the reservations and among the state’s rural communities. Such work keeps students “connected and aware,” then second-year medical student Pasha Jackson, of Los Angeles, told the WHO Bulletin. “We need to see how we can apply what some consider an idealistic education to our own country now, learning how people live and the health disparities we will have to face.”

External link to the ELAM website (in Spanish only).

Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS)

NEPAL

The Mission

The Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS) is dedicated to sustained improvement of the health of the people in Nepal, especially those who are poor and living in rural areas, through innovation, equity, excellence and love in education, service and research.

Historical Background

Despite an unprecedented expansion in the number of health-care institutions and medical schools in recent decades, the health-care needs of rural populations remain largely unmet and neglected. The reluctance of physicians and other categories of health-care personnel to work in rural areas is, among others, an important contributing factor. Under this context, the Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS) was established in 2008 as a public, autonomous and not-for-profit Health Science University, with a charter granted by the Parliament of Nepal with the aim of producing technically competent and socially responsible physicians, nurses and other categories of health-care personnel able and willing to go to and work in underserved rural areas of Nepal.

Areas of Excellence

The PAHS program adopts multi-pronged, innovative strategies in medical education, especially in the areas of student selection, curriculum, teaching-learning methodology, student assessment, faculty recruitment and community engagement. These strategies include, but are not limited to:

  • preferential enrollment of students of rural origin, including those trained as middle-level health workers (preferably with a few years of practical work experience), of which those who are female, from ethnic minorities or from remote and backward areas of Nepal would get extra scores in the selection matrix;
  • partial or full scholarships for students who cannot afford tuition fees, depending upon need and willingness to serve in rural area for two to four years upon completion of training;
  • training in a value-based curriculum, with strong emphasis on community health sciences and adequate immersion in rural community and rural health-care institutions; and
  • Local governments and communities are encouraged to contribute in paying students’ tuition fees and have them sign service contract agreements.
In addition, the PAHS is committed to working closely with the national health system, including the Ministry of Health and Population, local government and other relevant stakeholders, in order to facilitate smooth and efficient deployment of its graduates in underserved rural areas and providing the needed technical and professional support while they work there.

The innovative selection method employed by PAHS consists of Personal Quality Assessment (PQA), Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) and Social Inclusion Matrix (SIM). In order to recruit students from rural and disadvantaged sections of society, two-thirds of selection weightage is given to SIM, taking into consideration and providing bonus scores to the applicants in the selectable pool solely based on their socio-economic characteristics. These characteristics include: caste/ethnicity; gender; remoteness (rurality) and Human Development Index status of permanent residence; types of schools studied at in grades 8, 9 and 10 (i.e., public vs. private); and past work experience (at least for two years in rural areas) for health-science stream candidates. Among the two batches of 60 students selected thus far, nearly 60 percent are from rural areas, about 50 percent are female and nearly 40 percent are from socially disadvantaged groups. Two-thirds of the class receive scholarships, conditional upon two-to-four years of mandatory rural service.

Community Engagement

The PAHS’s community-based learning and education (CBLE) program was implemented in partnership with communities and Nepal’s national health system. The approach is more focused on processes than product. Communities have shown enthusiasm to participate in the CBLE process. Local leaders and service providers are involved as preceptors in assessing student behaviors. Students have been to fields several times and found it very useful. Students also get the opportunity to analyze simple problems, to start with, and over time are exposed to complex issues–technical, managerial and societal in nature–as they advance to higher-year postings. Faculty role modeling has been emphasized through supervisory visits to rural training sites, where they are also provide services and help build the capacity of local providers. Community members are involved in the student-selection process, especially as assessors of two objectively structured MMI test stations (i.e., Communication Skills and Sensitivity/Compassion/Empathy).

External link to the PAHS website.

Ateneo de Zamboanga University School
of Medicine (ADZU-SOM) – Mindanao

PHILIPPINES

The Vision

The ADZU-SOM envisions an innovative medical school whose curriculum combines competency and problem-based instruction with experiential learning in the community, responsive to the changing patterns of health-care development and the needs of communities, sensitive to the social and cultural realities of southwestern Mindanao.

The Mission

The School of Medicine exists to help provide solutions to the health problems of the people and communities in western Mindanao. Therefore, it will strive to produce competent graduates who, in the practice of their medical profession, are self-directing physicians; problem-solving and effective health administrators and health researchers; and committed medical teachers.

Historical Background

The ADZU-SOM started in 1993 as a local dream, when a group of concerned physicians and other community leaders came together to establish the Zamboanga Medical School Foundation (ZMSF). The school was founded with an agreed mission to help solve the health problems of southwestern Mindanao and to serve the needs of the region’s poorest and most isolated communities. In 2006, the ZMSF became a part of Ateneo De Zamboanga University.

The ADZU-SOM has succeeded in producing national board-certified graduates, with a near 100 percent passing rate in recent years. Graduates recently placed fifth, ninth and 11th in the national licensing-board exams. The school now ranks first among small medical schools, and in the top 10 of all 38 medical schools, in the Philippines. (Ranking based on performance in the national licensing-board examination for the last 10 years.)

It is important to note that 97 percent of ADZU-SOM graduates stay in the Philippines, working in previously underserved communities; 65 percent of these are employed by the government, while 48 percent serve in remote, rural areas that otherwise have no doctors.

External link to ZMSF website.

University of the Philippines, Manila – School of Health Sciences (UPM-SHS)

PHILIPPINES

The Mission

To train clinically-competent and socially-conscious health workers who will stay and serve in depressed and underserved communities, especially in rural areas. The UPM-SHS also has a mandate to develop a model for the training of community-oriented health workers replicable across the Philippines.

Historical Background

Established in 1976, the UPM-SHS was designed to train community-oriented health workers to counteract the twin problems of “brain drain” and inadequate health care in rural communities of the Philippines. The school had humble beginnings in a two-classroom building and adjacent traditional hut at the Danilo Z. Romuladez Hospital, now the Eastern Visayas Medical Center, in Tacloban City, Leyte. In 1989, it formally became the School of Health Sciences, an independent unit of the University of the Philippines, Manila and relocated to its present campus in Palo, Leyte. There are also two new extension campuses: In 2008, the Baler, Aurora campus opened, followed by a campus in Koronadal City, South Cotabato in 2010.

Through its democratized admissions policy, the UPM-SHS provides scholarships and admits deserving high-school graduates from remote and largely inaccessible communities. Prospective students, nominated by local community leaders, are bound by a contract and commit to return to serve their communities after completion of a program. The UPM-SHS is one of the Philippines’ top-performing schools in midwifery and has adopted a “step-ladder curriculum,” ultimately leading to the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD). A leader in innovative medical education, the UPM-SHS offers serial granting of degrees as the student progresses in his or her studies. It has been the model of several community-based medical programs worldwide.

Areas of Excellence

Step-ladder Curriculum

The “step-ladder” curriculum is the main feature of the SHS academic program. The training of a broad range of health manpower, from Barangay Health Worker (health auxiliary) to Doctor of Medicine, is integrated into a single, sequential and continuous curriculum. After one quarter, or an equivalent of 11 weeks of training, a student may drop from the program, having acquired enough knowledge and skills to qualify as a Barangay Health Worker. Should students go on for another five quarters, they would enroll in the Community Health Worker or CHW program. CHW graduates qualify as midwives after passing the nationally-administered licensure examination.

CHW graduates who continue for four more quarters qualify as a Community Health Nurse or CHN, the equivalent of the graduate nurse from a hospital school of nursing. Two more quarters of study result in the degree of Bachelor of Science in Community Health or BSCH, the local equivalent of Nurse Practitioner. The final level of the SHS curriculum is the Doctor of Medicine program. It consists of a yearly interval of didactic work and community experience over five years.

Community Engagement

Service Leave

Between each level of the step-ladder curriculum, students are required to undertake a “service leave” lasting three months after the BHW program, nine months for CHWs, and six months after the CHN and BSCH programs. student’s home village.
During the leave, students are monitored by local health department of staff. They are expected to render voluntary health and related services in their home communities, which are considered training venues.

External link to UPS-SMS. More information can also be viewed at University of the Philippines website.

Walter Sisulu University – Faculty of Health Sciences

SOUTH AFRICA

The Vision

The Faculty of Health Sciences endeavors to be a leading faculty of health sciences in Africa, in problem-based learning (PBL), community-based education (CBE) and community partnerships, in order to improve the quality of life of all the people served.

The Mission

The Faculty of Health Sciences is committed to excellence and social responsiveness through the integration of community service into its learning programs that involve teaching and research, with a special emphasis on sustainable rural development and in partnership with communities and service providers.

Historical Background

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) came into existence in July 2005, arising from the merger of the former University of Transkei, Eastern Cape Technikon and Border Technikon. Strategically located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, WSU straddles the urban and rural divides of this region. This context has led the university to define its niche area as that of “rural development and urban renewal.”

WSU’s Faculty of Health Sciences was originally established in 1985 as a faculty of the University of Transkei. Under the rule of the former apartheid regime, Transkei was an impoverished, nominally independent “Bantustan,” or homeland, for indigenous Africans within South Africa’s borders. The reasons for founding the medical school were twofold: to reduce brain-drain (Transkei-born students matriculating at medical schools in South Africa proper rarely returned, leading to a shortage of medical practitioners in the homeland) and to increase access to medical training by local high-school graduates. Despite skepticism from the white establishment, the medical community, the student body and even a suspicious black populace, the faculty survived and even thrived. This was thanks, in part, to its taking innovative approaches to health-professions education.

Initially, the focus was on undergraduate education and training. The faculty now offers a range of programs, from undergraduate diplomas such as certificates and bachelor’s degrees to master’s, PhD and MD degrees. The faculty has a medical library, which has a skills laboratory and computer learning center with telemedicine facilities, as well as a regional training center (RTC) for HIV and AIDS that was established in 2004. The faculty has been recommended as a WHO collaborating center for PBL/CBE and is now recognized by its peers internationally as one of 8 medical schools in the world that are champions of social accountability in health-professions education. The Faculty of Health Sciences at WSU was the first member of THEnet located in Africa.

Areas of Excellence

The School of Medicine at WSU has tailored its education to train doctors and clinical associates to serve in both urban and rural communities, with an emphasis on practice in underserved areas. In order to achieve this, the school has adopted an educational strategy of problem-based learning (PBL) and community-based education and service (COBES), with the goal that graduates will be competent doctors who have the clinical and social skills to provide excellent care in both a hospital environment and a community setting.

Values

  • Academic freedom in teaching and learning, research and community service.
  • Quality management and integrity in teaching and learning, research and community service.
  • Equity in all activities of the faculty, be it in student matters, staff matters, patient care and community service in general.
  • Democratic governance at all levels of management.
  • Student access for success in all programs within the faculty.
  • Staff development and leadership capacity for all faculty staff.
  • Batho pele principles of good character, respect and humility in our daily activities.
  • Cost-effectiveness in handling institutional resources at all times.
  • Relevance to the needs of those we serve, especially students and the community.

Principles

  • Building partnerships between university, community and service providers that should guide teaching and learning, research and community engagement throughout the faculty.
  • Developing an appropriate recruitment and selection process that enables the faculty to recruit from communities with greatest need.  This process should also:
    • Look at both academic performance and personal attributes of prospective students; and
    • Include community members in the selection committee and thus as members of the selection panel(s).
  • Developing an appropriate curriculum that is based on the primary health-care approach and guided by health and social needs. This curriculum should include:
    • Early clinical exposure;
    • Significant learning in the community;
    • Problem-based learning as a vehicle for community-based education and service;
    • Integration of basic sciences, clinical medicine and population medicine from first year to final year; and
    • Student-centeredness and self-directed learning
  • Developing a student support program that ensures access for success.   This should include:
    • A student mentoring program, where senior students are mentors for junior students, staff members are mentors to needy students and community members are mentors to all students in the community; and
    • Provision of financial assistance to almost all students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Recruiting and developing appropriate teaching staff who have a passion for community engagement, including health professionals in the workplace (general/family practitioners, nurses, health promoters, social workers, etc.), community health workers and community liaison officers. This initiative requires:
    • Training of academic staff across disciplines to be tutors/facilitators of small group learning within an integrated curriculum beyond their respective disciplines/ specializations;
    • Training of health professional also as tutors/facilitators of small-group learning centrally, in the skills laboratory and in the community; and
    • Recruitment of community health workers and community liaison officers to be teachers and mentors who guide students in the community.
  • Developing an appropriate and expanded teaching and learning platform that will enable the faculty to admit more students and also enable teaching to take place mainly in secondary and primary health care settings rather than at tertiary hospitals.  In this regard, each Learning Complex, including a District Learning Complex (consisting of a district hospital[s] and associated community health centers and/or clinics) should have:
    • A learning center that has seminar/tutorial rooms with teaching equipment, a skills laboratory and a library with intro and internet facilities, in addition to patient-care facilities; and
    • Accommodation for students and staff.
  • Providing tangible, sustainable, integrated and comprehensive primary health-care services that are based on relevance, equity, quality and cost-effectiveness. This is achieved through:
    • Teaching and application of the biopsychosocial model throughout the teaching platform;
    • Exposing the students to community diagnosis that is followed by intervention projects, based on feasible and prioritized community needs;
    • Re-introduction of a family-attachment scheme that enables students to follow patients into their homes over a period of time; and
    • District hospital and community health-center visits by academic staff for teaching students, capacity building to peripheral staff and service to the community.

External link to the WSU Faculty of Health Sciences website.

University of Gezira – Faculty of Medicine (FMUG)

SUDAN

The Vision

To achieve excellence in performance, graduates and research, and to provide preventive, curative health services to promote the health of the society and participate actively in solving its health problem.

The Mission

To participate in the development of an innovative health-profession education and practice, scientific research and community health services at an individual and social level.

Historical Background

The Faculty of Medicine, University of Gezira was one of the first schools to develop a community-based medical program in the WHO’s AFRO (African) and EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean) regions. This has made the FMUG a leader for the past 30-plus years in producing graduates with the requisite education, competency and skills to meet the needs on the ground. Its leadership in implementing relevance-based education and encouraging social accountability in medical education puts it at the forefront in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The FMUG, established in 1975, is distinct and unique in its approach to medical education. The most obvious factor is the statute of the university itself, which states categorically that: “The University shall pursue the study of the Sudanese environment and, in particular, the rural environment, in order to identify their problems and to conduct research there on”. The school has access to an expert medical-education unit and centers both locally and internationally. Also, the university participates in a leadership role in important initiatives at the FMUG like the Safe Motherhood and Childhood program.

At the time of the FMUG’s establishment, the dean was the only faculty member with a qualification in medical education. Shortly thereafter, 11 teaching staff members were given scholarships by the WHO to be trained in Chicago for three months and at the University of McMaster in Ontario, Canada. Since its inception, the Educational Development Center (EDC) has been organizing a large number of workshops, seminars and courses in medical education that all staff may attend regularly. Over time, the EDC has developed and has been designated as a WHO collaborative center in medical education. The EDC also collaborates with other EDCs in the EMRO region. The school has had strong relations with the state, as well as the federal Ministry of Health, since its inception. Most faculty members at the FMUG are also department directors at the MOH.

The school has a very good working relationship with the Gezira state government, which enables it to plan, develop and implement ground-breaking projects in the community. The faculty of the FMUG is continuously participating in the teaching and assessment of students in all the national and medical schools. The school has several collaborations with other regional and international medical schools, including the Faculty of Medicine, Suez Canal University, Egypt; the Gonium Center for Renal Disease, Egypt; and McMaster University School of Medicine and St. Mary’s General Hospital in Ontario, Canada.

Areas of Excellence

Gezira Family Medicine Program, 2008-2013 (ongoing)

The FMUG is embarking on a program of training family physicians, the only one of its kind in Sudan, designed to upgrade the training of mid-career physicians to give them enhanced skills as primary care physicians. The school plans to train at least 1,000 doctors from Gezira state. Most of these doctors will be from rural hospitals and clinics. This initiative will enable an increased capacity to deliver care in rural areas, especially in Gezira. This program has already had an impact on health services: 163 health centers have been upgraded and there has also been a reduction of referred cases to specialized hospitals, as many cases were treated in rural family medicine clinics. This program was featured in the Network Towards Unity for Health Newsletter, Volume 30/No. 1/July 2012: “Gezira\Sudan Family Medicine Program from Trial to Reality,” page 16. More details can also be found at www.familymedicine.gov.sd.

UG Initiative for Safe Motherhood and Childhood, 2005-2015

The Safe Motherhood project is a clear example of a number of projects the medical school has initiated to improve the health status of rural communities. This particular project, among other things, initiated the training of village midwives and facilitated their absorption into the government-funded health system. This initiative has led to a remarkable reduction in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and in the neonatal mortality ratio (NMR) in Gezira state. The Safe Motherhood project is a classic example of how a socially accountable medical institution has positively responded to an identified societal need in a holistic manner and with measurable impact. The effort has recorded great achievements in Gezira, lowering the MMR from 469 per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 106 in 2011, and the NMR from 43 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 10.2 per 1,000 in 2011. Many strategies were applied, including the training and provision of jobs for village midwives in collaboration with the state MOH. Further information can be found at the initiative webpage at the FMUG website and the Sub-Saharan African Medical Schools Study Site Visit Report, page 31.

External link to the University of Gezira Faculty of Medicine website.

University of New Mexico – Health Sciences Center

USA

The Vision/The Mission

The mission of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine is to advance the health of all New Mexicans by educating and increasing the diversity of health professionals, leaders and scientists; providing outstanding and compassionate medical care; advocating for the health of all New Mexicans; and pursuing new knowledge and excellence of practice. The School of Medicine mission must be seen in the context of a broad new vision for the Health Sciences Center, “Vision 2020.” Vision 2020 creates the first academic health-center strategic plan that focuses on improving a state’s population’s health and health equity as a measure of the institution’s success.

Historical Background

Established in 1994, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is the largest academic health complex in the state. Located on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the HSC combines its four mission’s areas-education, research, patient care and community outreach-to provide New Mexicans with the highest level of health care. The UNM Health Sciences Center is made up of the following academic and clinical entities: College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, School of Medicine, Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center, UNM Hospitals, UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center and UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

Areas of Excellence

  • Public Health Certificate: Beginning with the medical-school class that matriculated in 2010, all medical students will receive a professional development certificate in public health. Public-health skills and knowledge have been integrated into the existing medical school curriculum, along with one stand-alone introductory course given the first two weeks of medical school: Health Equity, Principles of Public Health. Course credits may be transferable to a full Masters in Public Health degree upon completion of medical school. See https://hsc.unm.edu/som/docs/PHCweb.pdf
  • Health Extension Rural Offices and decentralized academically-affiliated “Extension Hubs” in rural New Mexico. Based on agricultural cooperative extension, full-time, community-based agents of UNMHSC coordinate HSC programs locally (including community based education) and link priority community health hubs with HSC resources. See https://hsc.unm.edu/community/documents/HERObrochure2011_1_1.pdf

Community Engagement

The UNM School of Medicine has gained international recognition for its evolving curricular innovations that have addressed community health needs. The SOM strongly promotes service-learning as a core component of health-professions education. All medical students get practical experience in underserved, community-based settings in each phase of their curriculum to balance their experience in more traditional urban, tertiary academic health-center venues. Many train in urban and reservation Native American sites and others in rural farming and ranching communities. Physicians from throughout New Mexico have participated in the education of medical students, offering “real life” experiences in community settings.

In 2008, the UNM School of Medicine was named the recipient of the Spencer Foreman Award for outstanding community service by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The award honors member institutions with a long-standing, major institutional commitment to addressing community needs and developing programs that go beyond the traditional role of academic medicine to reach communities.

External link to the UNM HSC website.

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – FMHS

Canada

The Vision/The Mission

Deeply rooted in the communities in which it evolves, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) is responsible for medical training, research, and knowledge sharing, while encouraging critical and creative thinking in order to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations.

Values

Aware of its social responsibility, the FMHS places the training of students at the center of its actions and emphasizes the following values:
Excellency
Innovation
Partnership
Commitment
Professionalism
Strategic Plan 2016-2018

About FMHS

The Université de Sherbrooke‘s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) stands out for its exceptional work and study environment. Since its founding, the Faculty of Medicine has been situated in the same location as a university hospital, and now offers over 100 programs in Sherbrooke, Longueuil, Saguenay and Moncton, tailored to the needs of the communities it serves. Despite its remarkable growth, FMHS has maintained flexibility, which encourages innovation in teaching and research. FMHS welcomes more than 140 researchers whose impact has resulted in a growing number of graduate students and a 25% increase in research funding since 2010.

Historical Background

In 1966, FMHS admitted its first cohort of 32 medical students. Two decades later, in 1987, it was one of the first two universities in Canada to adopt problem-based (or case-based) learning as a teaching method, now used in every medical faculty in North America.

In November 2001, FMHS was designated a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Health Science Education and Practice, the only medical faculty in Canada, and in the French-speaking world to achieve this distinction. The FMHS has become a hallmark of innovation.

The FMHS is the youngest of four faculties of medicine in Québec. It offers its full medical program in regional campuses in Chicoutimi and Moncton. With no fewer than 11 UMFs (Family Medicine Units) in smaller cities requiring more clinical care than the current healthcare system can provide, FMHS has truly become the regional healthcare provider for those not living in Quebec City or Montreal.

 

About FMHS

https://www.usherbrooke.ca/medecine/fileadmin/sites/medecine/documents_officiels/fmss_bref_2016_web.pdf

FMHS Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/fmss.USherbrooke/

Other FMHS publications

https://www.usherbrooke.ca/medecine/faculte/publications-sur-la-faculte/

People Behind THEnet

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Bjorg Pálsdóttir, MPA
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of THEnet

Before co-founding THEnet in 2008, Björg served as a consultant to organizations, governments and institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences, the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine´s Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education, chairing an Innovation Collaborative on  on Learning through Community Engagement.  Earlier she co-founded the Center for Global Health at New York University School of Medicine, and worked for the International Rescue Committee, an emergency relief and development organization as a Regional Coordinator for East and Central Africa.

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DR. Andre-Jacques Neusy
Senior Director, Research and Programs and Co-Founder of THEnet

Dr. Neusy, THEnet’s co-founder, is an honorary associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, where he co-founded and directed the Center for Global Health. He was a past president of the Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC) and served as committee member to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine’s Board of Global Health on health workforce-related issues. Dr. Neusy has also consulted on health-workforce development for academic institutions, governments and international organizations. He also serves on scientific and health committees at various organizations, including CapacityPlus, the International Society for Urban Health, the American Near East Refugee Association and the Global Commission on Health Professional Education for the 21st Century.

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Monika Tillman
Chief Operating Officer

Monika Tillman’s expertise is in administration, marketing and sales. In her previous positions she held the title Marketing Director for a multi-million dollar a year for-profit company, before taking over as the  Managing Director in charge of their North & South American business.  Ms. Tillman attended The New School University in New York studying Marketing and Desktop Publishing & Graphic Design.

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Lyn Middleton
Director of Programs

Prior to joining THEnet Lyn was Regional Nurse Advisor for ICAP Columbia University where, through the PEPFAR-funded Nursing Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI), she supported efforts to strengthen pre-service nursing and midwifery education for improved health systems in six sub-Saharan African countries. Lyn is a member of the WHO’s Technical Working Group on Health Workforce Education Assessment Tools. She participated as a member of the WHO Core Guidelines Development Group for the development of guidelines for the transformative scale-up of health professional education. Lyn worked previously at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she taught, mentored and supervised students from across Africa and lead the Faculty of Health Science’s research ethics and higher degrees’ committee. She has a PhD in Nursing, and holds honorary positions in the School of Health Sciences (Pharmaceutical Sciences) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Kamuzu College of Nursing at the University of Malawi. Lyn is a member of the Association of Nurses in Aids Care and the International Nursing Honors Society, Sigma Theta Tau.

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Denise Mishiwiec
Program Manager

Denise brings over nine years in international development programs. Previous to joining THEnet, she coordinated the PEPFAR-funded Global Nurse Capacity Development Project, active in 11 sub-Saharan African countries. Denise worked closely with nursing schools to develop their capacity to implement large human resources for health programs. Previously Denise worked extensively in the Former Soviet Union including four years based in Russia and the South Caucasus at American Councils for International Education. At the Social Science Research Council Denise coordinated research fellowships and training programs for scholars of Eurasia. Denise has a BA from Barnard College and an MA and MPA from Indiana University. She coordinates the development of THEnet’s new website, its capacity development activities, manages new projects and helps strengthen THEnet’s operational and consultancy capacity.

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Karen Johnston
Research Officer

Karen Johnston is a research officer for THEnet and the College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University. She has several years of experience in research project management, data collection and management, data analysis and dissemination of research. She has a special interest in equity of access to health care for underserved populations. Previous research includes exploring access to sexual and reproductive health care for young people in Australia, and access to general practitioner services for older people in regional Queensland. Karen has also been involved in small scale evaluation studies for health initiatives at the local level. Karen holds a Bachelor of Science, and has recently embarked on a PhD investigating understandings of dementia and access to dementia care in Fiji. Karen will work with Lyn to support THEnet’s various research activities.

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Simone Ross
Project Manager

Simone has been a consultant in the role of Project Manager with THEnet since 2011. She has several years of experience in international research and program management with THEnet, managing both the internal THEnet research as well as externally funded research across countries. Simone is an academic of the James Cook University College of Medicine and Dentistry, where she teaches, as well as mentors and supervises students in a number of domestic and international student support programs. Simone’s research interests include health equity and universal healthcare, socially accountable health professional education, teaching of medical leadership at Australian universities, and the first year experience of medical students. Simone has a BPsych and MDR from James Cook University and is enrolled in a PhD investigating the medical student leadership needs for the Australian health system.

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Dr. Fortunato Cristobal
Board Member

Dr. Fortunato Cristobal is known both in local and international circuits as an outstanding and inspiring visionary, innovator, and leader. After completing his medical education, internship, and residency in Pediatrics at the University of the Philippines, he was granted a fellowship to undergo post-graduate studies in pediatric gastroenterology at the University of London. Upon his return to the Philippines, he received the rank of a fellow in pediatrics and continued his pediatric practice in Zamboanga.

Since he became dean of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine in 1993, he has worked to develop a medical school curriculum that produces graduates uniquely suited to address the needs of the local population. He is credited for transforming the school’s curriculum into one that is locally-relevant and community oriented. Because of this, it has served as global model for other medical schools.

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Afaf Meleis
Board Member

Afaf I. Meleis, PhD, DrPS(hon), FAAN is the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Professor of Nursing and Sociology, and Director of the school’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in the UK, and the American Academy of Nursing; a member of the Institute of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health; board member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health; and co-chair of the IOM Global Forum on Innovation for Health Professional Education and the Harvard-Penn-Lancet Commission on Women and Health. She is also President and Counsel General Emeriti of the International Council on Women’s Health. Dr. Meleis’ research scholarship is focused on the structure and organization of nursing knowledge, transitions and health, and global immigrant and women’s health. She’s authored more than 175 journal articles in social sciences, nursing, and medical journals; 16 books, numerous monographs, proceedings, and policy white papers. She has mentored hundreds of students, clinicians, and researchers from Thailand, Brazil, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Colombia, Korea, and Japan. Dr. Meleis is the recipient of numerous awards, honorary international professorships, and honorary doctorates. Among them she holds a Doctorate of Medicine from Linköping University, Sweden; a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Alicante, Spain; and the distinguished Honorary Citizenship of Oporto, Portugal. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Alexandria, Egypt, a master’s in nursing, a master’s in sociology and a PhD in medical and social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Dr. Agnés Soucat
Board Member

Dr. Agnés Soucat is the Director for Health Systems, Governance, and Financing at the WHO in Geneva. Until recently she was Global Leader Service Delivery and Lead Economist at the World Bank. She previously was the director of Human Development for the African Development Bank, where she was responsible for health, education, and social protection for Africa, including 54 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb. She has over 25 years of experience in health and poverty reduction, covering Africa, Asia, and Europe. She was a pioneer of several innovations in health care financing including community-based financing and performance based financing and authored seminal publications on these topics. She is also the co-author of the World Development Report 2004 “Making Services Work for Poor People” and of the Lancet Commission report “Global Health 2035: a world converging within a generation”. She recently was commissioner of the recent Lancet and Rockefeller Commission on Planetary Health. Dr Soucat did also extensive work on the health labor market dynamics in Africa. Dr. Soucat holds an MD and a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Nancy in France as well as a Master of Public Health and PhD in Health Economics from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Dr. Paul Worley
Board Member

Dr. Paul Worley studied medicine at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1984. He was in solo rural practice at Lameroo, in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia, and then moved to a group rural practice at Clare. In 1994 he took up an appointment as senior lecturer in Rural Health at Flinders University of South Australia; in 2001, he was appointed professor and director of the Flinders University Rural Clinical School and editor of Rural and Remote Health; in 2007, he was appointed dean of the School of Medicine at Flinders University. As well as maintaining an active clinical workload in both rural and urban practice, Paul has been responsible for coordinating the rapid expansion of Flinders University’s rural education programs in undergraduate and postgraduate rural practice. He is a past academic director on the board of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and was the Commonwealth Chair of the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program from 2005 to 2009 and the John Flynn Scholarship Scheme from 2004-2007.

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Dr Marilyn A. DeLuca
Board Member

Dr Marilyn A. DeLuca is a leader in global health and health systems. Founder/President of Global Health-Systems-Philanthropy and a professional nurse, Dr DeLuca held clinical, teaching and management roles in critical care and top leadership positions in large affiliated medical centers. As an educator, she mentors undergraduate, pre-service health sciences and medical students, and serves as faculty to graduate, post-doc and multi-disciplinary professionals in global health. Dr DeLuca earned a PhD (Wagner NYU, 2000) with concentrations in global health policy and comparative health systems and has expertise in global and domestic health systems; health workforce; reform; health delivery and payment models, and quality. DeLuca advises an array of health sector stakeholders including governments, multilaterals, academia and others. An adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Medicine and Associate Professor, College of Nursing, NYU, she frequently serves as faculty at global health symposia, including delivering papers at the 3rd Global Forum for HRH, Recife (2013); the Prince Mahidol Conference, Bangkok (2014; 2015); National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine-Continuing Professional Development in Global Health, Washington, DC (2017), and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (2018). She was an invited Visiting Scholar at the College of Nursing, NYU (2010-2011) where she focused on multidisciplinary global health workforce development and planed and led the multi-day Global Summit: Strengthening 21st Century Health Systems: Investing Strategically in the Health Care Workforce attended by over ninety educators, global health leaders, funders and students.

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Richard J. Deckelbaum
Board Member

Richard J. Deckelbaum, MD, CM, FRCP(C), received his education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He now directs the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University where he holds professorships in nutrition, pediatrics, and epidemiology. In addition to his ongoing basic research in cell biology of lipids, cardiovascular diseases, and issues of human nutrition, he has been active in translating basic science findings to practical application in different populations. Dr. Deckelbaum has published over 400 research and other publications. Recent research in Dr. Deckelbaum’s research group focuses on defining mechanisms whereby acute administration of omega-3 glycerides provides tissue “protection” after acute injury in different organs including heart and brain. Dr. Deckelbaum also coordinates programs related to the effects of varying nutrient intakes on expression of cardiovascular risk factors in populations of different genetic backgrounds in both national and international studies. He has chaired task forces for the American Heart Association, the European Atherosclerosis Society, WHO, the Institute of Medicine, the March of Dimes, and has led and/or served on advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, RAND Corporation, and the USA National Academies of Science, as well as the US Dietary Guidelines Committee. Dr. Deckelbaum has directed novel “econutrition” task forces and activities integrating health, nutrition, ecology and agriculture. Dr. Deckelbaum is the facilitator and co-founder of African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium (ANSRC) which brings together academic and research institutions from across the East African region, with the goal of building PhD training programs in basic laboratory research in nutritional and agricultural sciences.

THEnet is working to transform health workforce education to a socially accountable model that is moving the world toward health equity.  It’s a model that encourages students, including those from marginalized groups, to pursue careers in primary care and to practice in underserved and rural communities.

Consider:

  • A periodic visit by a health worker can make all the difference between life and death across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and among vulnerable populations on every continent. And yet a worldwide shortage of appropriately trained health workers and their highly uneven distribution perpetuates these inequities.
  • At least 400 million people globally do not have access to essential health services. When entire communities lie beyond the reach of health care, more women die in childbirth, more newborns perish before they’ve taken their first breath, and more children succumb to preventable diseases.
  • There is increasing recognition that the traditional way of educating the health workforce is part of the problem. A growing body of evidence has shown that socially accountable health workforce education, tools, and strategies can help reverse the shortage and improve the distribution and performance of health workers worldwide.

Learning from the successes of schools that are already producing a fit-for-purpose health workforce in both high- and low-income countries, THEnet is promoting innovative strategies, building capacity and fostering collaboration between diverse actors, sectors, and disciplines and advocating for change, thus seeding the growth of healthy, resilient communities worldwide.

THEnet cultivates a community-engaged approach to health workforce education by gathering and synthesizing successful strategies from its partner institutions.

Community engagement is all about mutuality.  Research has shown that a community-engaged approach to the training of health workers benefits the entire health system. To help its schools produce a fit-for-purpose workforce comprised of the health workers the world needs, communities must be engaged from the outset. Patients and health workers learn from each other.  Families, neighbors, community members, and health leaders are ideally positioned to help assess needs and set priorities.

The first questions a school might ask of community members is:

  • What are you looking for in a health worker?
  • How can we best meet your needs?

Based on collaboratively identified needs, including social determinants affecting health, students may partner with communities to plant vegetable gardens or develop cottage industries to generate income.

Because of community engagement, students at THEnet’s partner schools receive training in a wider range of competencies than do their counterparts at traditional institutions.  At these innovative schools, students understand that where and how people live has a direct impact on health.  This kind of education translates into meaningful, compassionate care and service.

Academic-community partnerships also go far toward countering the passivity that is often seen among people living in neglected communities steeped in long-standing poverty.  A community-engaged approach makes for strong communities engaged in their own health, working right alongside faculty, students and graduates.

At a time when globalization has created a high degree of interdependence among national health systems, THEnet aims to place health equity, social accountability, and community engagement at the heart of health workforce education everywhere.

THEnet focuses on the role of education to affect meaningful changes in health disparities by mobilizing technological, intellectual, and political resources. THEnet fosters a wealth of partnerships that are taking root and blossoming into lasting relationships among all stakeholders in the system. And THEnet advocates for the transformation of health workforce education, engaging governments and policy-setting institutions at the regional, national, and global levels.

When schools are well resourced, outcome-oriented, and socially accountable, they produce the health workers the world needs. They also become hubs of research, analysis, and innovation.

Building on the success of our founding members to train a fit-for-purpose workforce for underserved areas and communities, THEnet supports reform by:

  • Gathering evidence
  • Developing the capacity of schools in disadvantaged regions and
  • Advocating for socially accountable, community-engaged and results-oriented health workforce education.

THEnet is promoting a vision of healthy communities that relies on the cooperation of many sectors of society, including those responsible for education, service delivery, labor, transportation, housing, nutrition, sanitation, and financing.

Together with our partners, we are watering the seeds of change, overseeing their growth, and reaping a harvest of healthier, more resilient communities around the world.

THEnet and its partner institutions developed a powerful, practical and comprehensive tool to help schools align the training of health workers with community needs- The Framework for Socially Accountable Health Workforce Education, or The Framework. The Framework has been adopted by schools in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Iran, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan, and the United States, with more schools signing on every year.

Instead of merely counting how many graduates they produce, socially accountable schools assess whether the competencies of their graduates are aligned with community needs.  Instead of only tallying how many articles their researchers have published, they assess the impact these articles have had on policy.  And instead of basing their student recruitment policies on high test scores alone, they recruit students who are most likely to stay in communities where health professionals are scarce – and urgently needed.

Example:

Engaging with and mobilizing communities is a core function of socially accountable schools. In conflict-ridden Mindanao, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine works to improve health services in one of the poorest regions of the Philippines. So:

  • First-year medical students undertake a survey to assess the health situation of their assigned village or Barangay.
  • Second-year student findings are shared with the community and the students help the community develop a plan to solve these problems.
    • Solutions include:
      • Collecting community funding to pay for transportation of pregnant woman to give birth at clinics
      • Proper garbage disposal through a zero-waste management program and
      • Home vegetable gardens.

Results:

Not only have infant and maternal mortality rates fallen significantly in the region since their program was established, but faculty and students have worked with their communities to help them take charge of their own health, and, as a result, health practices are changing.

Through research and advocacy, THEnet is amplifying the voices of communities in need and the innovative schools and health workers that serve them. THEnet believes that the socially accountable model for health workforce education is making a difference. Health service delivery is becoming more equitable as a result, and communities are becoming healthier.

THEnet is amassing a growing body of evidence showing that

  • When students are recruited from lower-income communities and trained there, a high proportion of them return to practice in their communities or similar low resource areas and
  • Who receives training is just as important as how they are trained. Recruiting students from underserved communities is proving to be a major strategy in improving access to health services through a more equitable distribution of health practitioners.

Demonstrating the success stories of social accountability, we continue to influence the global dialogue on health workforce training. THEnet has made significant contributions to key policy documents issued by, among others, the

  • World Health Organization
  • United Nations
  • The World Bank, and
  • The Lancet’s Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century.

As academic institutions adopt the recommended changes, and as their graduates begin to practice in formerly neglected communities, studies show that health improves, sometimes quite markedly.