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First Peace Corps Health Care Educators Leaving for Africa

19 July 2013
Group of people seated and smiling for camera (Peace Corps)

The first group of Global Health Service Partnership volunteers waits to be sworn in.

Washington — Thirty U.S. doctors and nurses from across the country were sworn in at the White House July 18 as the first class of Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership volunteers.

The new volunteers will leave July 20–21 for one-year assignments as medical or nursing educators in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, where they will work alongside local faculty to train the next generation of health care professionals, the Peace Corps said in a July 18 press release.

“These volunteers will soon depart for a groundbreaking adventure — an opportunity to make a real difference in communities abroad while enhancing their own skills,” Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “The Global Health Service Partnership is an exciting continuation of the Peace Corps’ commitment to global health.”

The Partnership — a collaboration of the Peace Corps, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the nonprofit organization Seed Global Health — presents an opportunity for American physicians and nurses to address the shortage of skilled physicians, nurses and clinical faculty in resource-limited countries. It is the first organized effort by the Peace Corps to send U.S. health care professionals abroad with a focus on teaching and expanding clinical capacity.

“Whether these volunteers serve in Tanzania, Malawi or Uganda, their work will help strengthen the capacity of health professionals and the capacity of health systems,” said Dr. Eric P. Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator. “Their contributions will help position partner countries to more effectively, efficiently and sustainably address some of their greatest health challenges, including HIV/AIDS.”

Sub-Saharan Africa has 24 percent of the global burden of disease but only 3 percent of the world’s health workforce. The United States has 280 physicians and 980 nurses for every 100,000 people; countries in sub-Saharan Africa, like Tanzania, have one physician and 24 nurses for every 100,000 people.

“We’re proud to be in this partnership that is sending an outstanding group of doctors and nurses abroad to help build a pipeline of medical professionals in the countries that need them most,” said Dr. Vanessa Kerry, chief executive officer of SEED Global Health. “This effort will help ensure that more well-trained doctors and nurses will be walking the wards and caring for patients in hospitals and clinics in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda for years to come.”

The inaugural group of Global Health Service Partnership volunteers comes from diverse backgrounds, with clinical experience extending from a few years to decades. The doctors and nurses range in age from 26 to 70, include seven previous Peace Corps volunteers, and have collectively worked in more than 32 developing countries throughout the world.