Vol. 9, No. 8
Aug. 2017

Mandela Fellows gain public health insight

Sept. 5, 2017 --

Young business and community leaders from 18 Sub-Saharan countries spent six weeks at the University of Iowa this summer as part of the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for African Leaders entrepreneurial program.

Dr. Lucy Amaniyo and Chris AtchisonDr. Lucy Amaniyo and Chris Atchison

From an applicant pool of 60,000, the program selected 1,000 fellows who were assigned to 38 US colleges and universities. In their home countries, the 25 fellows hosted by the University of Iowa work as doctors, accountants, business consultants, health care managers, agronomists and community developers.

One of the aims of the fellowship is to give these professionals insight into American business, entrepreneurialism, civic leadership and energy they can use in their communities.

The group completed an accelerated course at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s Venture School, a start-up development program. They toured the state, visiting Iowa businesses, volunteer organizations and – on July 5 – the State Hygienic Laboratory.

“I was inspired by the level of commitment by such a public laboratory especially during the flood in 2008,” said Barrack Owino after the Hygienic Laboratory tour. “The focus on the environment is also surprising since our labs do not focus so much on the environment—they are more inclined to the medical side,” said Owino, who manages low cost oncology and hematology outpatient care in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr. Lucy Amaniyo from Kampala, Uganda, was also “amazed at the amount of research that the lab does, especially with the environment,” in comparison to Uganda’s national laboratories, which deal with tuberculosis, leprosy, and general communicable disease surveillance and outbreak investigation. But it was a particular area of the laboratory related to her specialization in children’s health and sickle cell that held the most interest.

“One of the most impressive things for me was the newborn screening that goes on in the laboratory: the wide range of conditions screened for and the number of lives saved because of this,” Amaniyo said.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship began in 2014, and is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), created in 2010 by President Barack Obama. This is the second year that the University of Iowa has hosted Mandela Washington Fellows.

After the six-week program, all 1,000 fellows meet in Washington, D.C. for a summit with U.S. leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Upon returning to their home countries, they will continue to build the skills they have learned in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, four Regional Leadership Centers, the YALI Network, and specialized programming from the U. S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State and affiliated partners.