MGHD Class of 2017: Seedlings of a Forest of Change Agents

From left to right: Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Partners In Health, Dr. Gary Gottlieb, CEO of Partners In Health, and members of the MGHD Class of 2017 during UGHE’s first Commencement ceremony on May 27, 2017. Photo by Zacharias Abubeker for UGHE.

On May 27, 2017, UGHE graduated the first class of Master of Science in Global Health Delivery students. His Excellency, President Paul Kagame, Vice Chancellor, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Partners In Health Co-Founder and Chief Strategist, Dr. Paul Farmer, and more, celebrated the shared achievements of the MGHD Class of 2017, offering words of wisdom and encouragement to our new graduates on their journey to create stronger, more equitable health systems.

In his Commencement address to the MGHD Class of 2017, transcribed below, Partners In Health CEO, Dr. Gary Gottlieb reminds graduates of their critical role in creating a world where access to quality health care is a right shared by all.

Guhimbaza! Congratulations.

What a joyous moment this is: for the remarkable and deserving very first master’s in global health degree recipients of UGHE, for their friends and their families, for the 18,000 people of Partners In Health, for the nearly 12 million people of Rwanda and for the millions more who will benefit from the work that you and the legions of young women and men who will be educated at this wonderful new university in the years to come will lead in your remarkable careers.

For Partners In Health, UGHE is a natural step in the work envisioned by our founders, Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, Jim Kim, Todd McCormack and Tom White more than 30 years ago. Driven by a mission to provide health care that is truly a preferential option for the poor, informed by science and inspired by the genius of the people we serve and work with in ten of the most deserving countries in the world, this investment fits so naturally with all of our work.

You, as graduates and those who follow in your fresh footsteps will develop the tools to catalyze the change and the work necessary to create real equity in health care delivery-universal access to excellence, effectiveness and efficiency-much of which we have learned first in Haiti and so richly here in Rwanda, which is the ideal home for this dream to become a reality. A place where government is tirelessly committed to finding solutions to vexing problems and paving sustainable avenues to improving the quality of life and the strength of its people, and where partnership is powerful and nurturing.

As you graduate and this University celebrates its first commencement under the brilliant leadership of Vice Chancellor Agnes Binagwaho, the opportunities for real and transformational change in health care equity are exploding. The world is embracing a notion of health care for all, laying down the groundwork to implement and then study Universal Health Coverage as a policy and a moral principle. At the same time, advanced diagnostics and data analytics will make rapid diagnosis and informed treatment of complex illnesses more portable, more available and less expensive. Translation of these discoveries in remote, impoverished and rural settings can be accelerated by leveraging the proven bulwark of exceptional and trained community health workers, health outposts and health centers partnered with district and teaching hospitals. The leadership, will, and vision that you can generate will allow the effective treatment and cure of complex malignancies, neurologic, cardiac and endocrine conditions where, like HIV and other infectious illnesses, it seemed impossible only a short time ago. And with UGHE, the missing piece will be solved: The curation of great talent and the development of the precious and essential human capital committed and prepared to serve and to lead.

In this place, you are seedlings of a forest that will grow strong and mighty for centuries, where healers and scientists and implementers and leaders will amass as a community of change agents. That community will feed Rwanda, Africa, and the world with knowledge and hope, with solutions and power, and with an endless pipeline of great minds and strong souls that will create a magnet for young people throughout the world to rural Rwanda, to this region, and to the mission of improving the human condition and improving health care and the social determinants of health for everyone, putting the poorest and weakest first, foremost and always.

Murakoze. Guhimbaza.