Dean Abebe Bekele Receives CUGH’s Distinguished Leadership Award

In a momentous occasion, Professor Abebe Bekele, the Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at UGHE, was recently honored with the prestigious 2024 Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s Distinguished Leadership Award. This recognition underscores Dean Abebe’s exceptional contributions and impact on global health outcomes worldwide. The award ceremony, held on March 9 during the CUGH 2024 conference, marked a significant milestone for both the distinguished recipient and UGHE as a whole.

The annual award from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) acknowledges academic leaders who have demonstrated unwavering dedication and played pivotal roles in advancing global health initiatives. Professor Abebe’s recognition is not only a testament to his personal commitment but also reflects UGHE’s dedication to the legacy of Dr. Paul Farmer. This acknowledgment reinforces UGHE’s commitment to excellence in education, research, and community engagement in global health.

Abebe’s Reaction to the Award – Full speech

Expressing gratitude for the honor, Prof Abebe extended his thanks to everyone at CUGH. 

“Thank you to everyone at the CUGH for recognizing the work we have been doing at the University of Global Health Equity. I accept this award on behalf of my students, faculty, staff, board of directors, trustees, and partners. We are deeply humbled.”

Reflecting on his own career path, Professor Bekele emphasized the transformative role of mentorship and over a decade of experience in academic leadership.

He recalled, “My route to UGHE was far from pre-ordained. Trained as a general and cardio-thoracic surgeon, my life revolved around the operating theater, patients, teaching, and, of course, my family. Yet, it was through mentorship and over a decade of experience in academic leadership that I discovered leadership is a skill that can be taught and studied, much like a complicated thoracic procedure, but with fewer scalpels involved.”

Professor Bekele highlighted the contribution of partnership, a value instilled by Dr. Paul Farmer to the growth and impact of UGHE.

He expressed, “I’m immensely proud that, together, in the last few years, we have accomplished so much. We have launched four tracks of our flagship program in Master of Sciences in Global Health Delivery, including the most recent one in Global Surgery. We are about to recruit our 5th cohort of medical students to the Dual degree program in Medicine and MGHD, and we are about to launch our Msc program in Global Nursing and Midwifery Leadership. We are also partnering with the government of Rwanda in its grand initiative called 4 x 4, by creating an Msc program Health Professional Education, residency programs, and a PhD program in Basic Medical Sciences. UGHE is young and small, but it has achieved so much in the past 9 years. UGHE was ranked 8th among the best universities in Sub Sahara Africa by Times Higher Education in 2023, ranked second in the category of “Africa Impact.” In June 2022, UGHE became the first African institution to receive the Aspire Award for “Inspirational Approaches to Health Professions Education” from the Association of Medical Education of Europe.

With all the above, I’d like to think Paul is proud, nodding along, possibly while drafting another speech on a rooftop somewhere in heaven. If there is one thing I learned from him, it is not about leadership. It is about partnership. He believed that, and I quote, “With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others—or, in a word, partnership.” Indeed, without partners, UGHE would be just a bunch of empty buildings, if even that.

So, I hope you will join us in not only giving thanks for all we have achieved but in pledging to do more. Let’s continue to work together—across institutions, disciplines, sectors, and borders—to address the root causes of health and education inequities, train the next generation of health practitioners and leaders, and build the high-quality health systems that everyone deserves. I look forward to collaborating with all of you in this endeavor.”

The recognition of Dean Abebe Bekele with the CUGH’s Distinguished Leadership Award is not just an accolade for an individual but a celebration of UGHE’s commitment to global health excellence. Professor Bekele’s journey, rooted in visionary leadership and collaboration, serves as an inspiration for the next generation of health practitioners and leaders. As UGHE continues to thrive, the call for global collaboration and partnership remains at the forefront of its mission to address the root causes of health and education inequities.