Thinks Local, Acts Global and Finds Niche in Health Care Equality
Radhika Bhavsar, M.P.H. ’12, is on a mission – working towards “a world where all of humanity has access to quality and affordable health care.” Her interest in public health was awakened at Michigan State University (MSU), where she majored in health studies and physiology and had the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana to explore health care access at the community and government level. That experience sealed her fate and she resolved to continue her education in public health landing her in the Master of Public Health program in the School of Health Sciences and Practice focusing on behavioral sciences and health promotion and global health.
There she found a mentor in Padmini Murthy, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., FAMWA FRSPH, professor of health policy and management and global health director in the School of Health Sciences and Practice and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine in the School of Medicine. “I was intrigued to learn about global health disparities and, more importantly, ideas and strategies for addressing them,” said Ms. Bhavsar. She got involved in Dr. Murthy’s Motherhood in Malawi project, fund raising, collecting supplies, assembling and sending birthing kits with the most essential items for delivery and reducing infection in newborns, to health organizations working under the Presidential Safe Mother Hood Initiative in Malawi to improve childbirth conditions in Africa.
Empowered by this experience, Ms. Bhavsar sought opportunities to make a difference in health care on a global scale. She found it as a 2016-2017 fellow of the Global Health Corps (GHC), an organization co-founded by Barbara Pierce Bush and others to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity.
Ms. Bhavsar began her 13-month fellowship with a two-week intensive Training Institute, hosted at Yale University before setting off for Rwanda working with the Ihangane Project as monitoring and evaluation coordinator. The Ihangane Project is a non-profit organization to empower Rwandan communities to develop integrated approaches to complex health challenges by increasing access to overall health care, improving health care quality and fostering long-term success through economic development.
“Living in a small village in the Northern part of the country, I became part of a team working closely with health center nurses to understand and implement Ministry of Health protocols for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and for malnutrition,” said Ms. Bhavsar. “My work included ongoing trainings in how to accurately assess the health and nutrition status of infants and their mothers, and trainings in how to track and utilize data for continuous quality improvement,” she explained. Ms. Bhavsarand her colleagues coached the nursing staff to become better health educators – helping them understand that teaching may be the most important aspect of their work.
“My role was monitoring and evaluation so I reviewed all Ihangane programs to examine their impact. I developed evaluation methods and tools to ensure return on investment of time and money, and helped both Ihangane workers and local health care providers understand their roles,” she said. Her work helped her colleagues see and understand how their program fit into a larger infrastructure staff to improve efficiency, decrease costs, and increase revenue.
Now that she has completed her project and returned to the U.S., Ms. Bhavsar says she has learned what community really means. “It’s important to give ideas and people time to see the value of change. The Ihangane Project believes that –given the opportunity-- people will jump at the chance to make their community more economically sustainable. I saw this in action time and again during my fellowship in Rwanda.”
Reflecting on her work with GHC, Ms. Bhavsar says that, when it comes to global health, “Patience really IS a virtue” and “There’s always another way.”