In 2014, thanks to the visionary leadership of the Cummings Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Partners In Health took the first steps towards realizing a long-sought aspiration — to create a university that would advance global health delivery by training a new generation of global health leaders who are equipped in not just building, but sustaining effective and equitable health systems.
The idea for such an institution emerged at the time of the 2013 Oral Health Stakeholders meeting in Kigali, when the Cummings Foundation first proposed a brand-new university that would serve not only Rwanda, but also all of Africa and beyond. This matched the idea that Dr. Paul Farmer had for the future of PIH in education, and on October 8, 2013, he responded to Bill Cummings in an email, “What a great vision, and one that squares with the Rwandan vision of pulling people up by building a ‘knowledge’ economy while delivering care—and what better way to promote peace, justice, and development in the region.”
For over three decades, Partners In Health (PIH) has delivered high-quality health care and social services across ten countries and in some of the world’s most underserved communities. By working closely with local governments and alongside communities to design and deliver public health programs, PIH has emerged as a leader in delivering health services in poor and under-resourced settings.
Nowhere has this approach had more profound results than in Rwanda, which has achieved some of the most dramatic gains in population health and poverty reduction in the world. These outcomes serve as a beacon, exemplifying what can result when leaders relentlessly pursue evidence-based care through robust health systems, with particular emphasis in rural populations. In recent years, PIH and its many academic partners have established training and research programs that are informed by these experiences. But it became clear that using these experiences to inform training programs was just part of the answer.
Missing from the equation was an institution dedicated to health equity or located in an environment where health disparities are most acutely felt.
The University of Global Health Equity stands alone in both its focus on equity and its proximity to health systems that face the very challenges that students will grapple with in the classroom. UGHE is pioneering a new way of training leaders who will emerge ready to develop health care services and systems that connect neglected communities with essential–and life-saving–attention.
An early commitment from the Cummings Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a 10-year framework catalyzing the University of Global Health Equity, and then later funded the first phase of implementation. UGHE remains grateful to its founding partners who played a vital role in the establishment of this new University. This visionary leadership, coupled with a commitment of infrastructure from the Government of Rwanda, have been invaluable to the success of UGHE, its graduates, and the communities in which they serve.