On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the Conversations in Global Health lecture series had the pleasure of hosting a discussion on improving health equity with Dr. Deus Bazira, the Co-Director of Georgetown's Center for Global Health Practice and Impact (CGHPI). Dr. Bazira shared an empowering story about his journey from Uganda to Washington, D.C. with an emphasis on regulating the quality standards for the delivery of health services and focusing on the people who are being affected daily by global health issues. Over the course of the evening, Dr. Bazira spoke about the trajectory his education and career took to lead him to where he is now: working to improve the health of vulnerable communities and achieve health equity internationally by understanding health care systems and its patients.
Dr. Bazira has experience focused on the intersection of healthcare services and emerging economies of developing countries. Even though the initial education he received from Uganda helped him in promoting health equity, it had a drastically different focus. His background was in pharmacy, but he also had a desire to influence policy after his time engaging in politics as President of his university. Following his undergraduate education, Dr. Bazira went back to school two more times to learn about strategic management and economics with breaks in between to work in the military, Ministry of Health, and USAID. His education and work experience clearly indicates that Dr. Bazira wanted to create structural changes to institutions to make an impact rather than interacting with patients daily.
For many developing countries, what we typically would consider to be “global health initiatives”, is viewed as basic healthcare. For this reason, Dr. Bazira emphasized that regardless of background, in order to make changes in global health, it is important to understand healthcare systems. Health systems and health promotion are not two distinct features of health care that should be treated differently. Rather, increasing access to quality healthcare is dependent on having a strong backbone for a good healthcare system. For example, using the HIV care system as a model for primary care throughout hospitals would help increase access. Additionally, Dr. Bazira began to speak about the role of the private health sector to deliver health services and underlined the importance of improving regulations with strong enforcement methods. Whether they are public or private interventions, sustainability of these interventions needs to be more cost effective and focused on individualized care for patients.
Dr. Bazira was capable of having this knowledge and making successful changes due to his strong foundation in pharmacy, management, and economics. Not only did this demonstrate the importance of understanding the intersection of these subjects to fully understand global health, but it also demonstrated how important it is to continue learning. Hearing about his education made me begin to wonder whether I wanted to pursue higher education or if I wanted to get out into the field and start working. However, I soon realized that the biggest takeaway from all his experiences was that no matter in what form, the learning never stops. In higher education or out in the field, being aware of what you know and have yet to learn are both essential to make an impact in global health. That, and truly learning about the functions of a healthcare system.
Zulekha Tasneem (SFS ‘22) is an undergraduate studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a concentration in Global Health and Biotechnology in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.