Volunteers prepare to leave for one-year assignments working as medical or nursing educators in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 18, 2013 – Thirty U.S. doctors and nurses from across the country were sworn in at the White House today as the first class of Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership volunteers. The new volunteers will leave this weekend for one-year assignments as medical or nursing educators in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, where they will work alongside local faculty to train the next generation of healthcare professionals.

“These volunteers will soon depart for a ground-breaking adventure – an opportunity to make a real difference in communities abroad while enhancing their own skills,” Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “The Global Health Service Partnership is an exciting continuation of the Peace Corps’ commitment to global health.”

The Global Health Service Partnership – a collaboration of the Peace Corps, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the non-profit Seed Global Health – presents an opportunity for American physicians and nurses to make a real difference in communities abroad by helping to address the known shortage of skilled physicians, nurses and clinical faculty in resource-limited countries. This innovative public-private partnership represents the first organized effort by the Peace Corps to send U.S. healthcare professionals abroad with a focus on teaching and expanding clinical capacity.

“Whether these volunteers serve in Tanzania, Malawi or Uganda, their work will help strengthen the capacity of health professionals and the capacity of health systems,” said Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. “Their contributions will help position partner countries to more effectively, efficiently, and sustainably address some of their greatest health challenges, including HIV/AIDS.”

Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest shortage of physicians and nurses; the region has 24 percent of the global burden of disease but only three percent of the world’s health workforce. While the United States has 280 physicians and 980 nurses for every 100,000 people, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Tanzania, have just one physician and 24 nurses for every 100,000 people.

“We’re proud to be in this partnership that is sending an outstanding group of doctors and nurses abroad to help build a pipeline of medical professionals in the countries that need them most,” said Vanessa Kerry, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of SEED Global Health. “This effort will help ensure that more well-trained doctors and nurses will be walking the wards and caring for patients in hospitals and clinics in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda for years to come.”

The inaugural group of Global Health Service Partnership volunteers comes from diverse backgrounds, with clinical experience extending from a few years to decades of experience. The doctors and nurses range in age from 26-70, include seven returned Peace Corps volunteers, and have collectively worked in more than 32 developing countries throughout the world.

Fifty-two years ago, President John F. Kennedy hosted a ceremony at the White House to swear in the first-ever class of Peace Corps Volunteers. While honoring that legacy, the Peace Corps takes a step forward in inaugurating the first volunteers of the Global Health Service Partnership program, one of several new and innovative Peace Corps initiatives that expand service opportunities and use 21st century tools to meet development goals.  Here is the link to the text and pictures of this press release:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/resources/media/press/2257/

(Please Note this personal comment from me, Joanne Roll) There is a proud legacy of Nurses, in particular, and also Doctors, serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in educational assignments. Letters from Nurses is a book that can be found on the Peace Corps’s Digital Library. Here is the link to the text:  http://collection.peacecorps.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/p9009coll13/id/24/rec/17

I hope that each one of the new Global Health Volunteers has an opportunity to read these letters from nurses who served in the 1960’s. The nurses were specific in describing the details of their work and honest with their frustrations  as well as their accomplishments. These voices from fifty years ago are still loud, clear, and important.