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Malawian Doctor Bridget Msolomba-Malewezi awarded Harvard Global Health Institute Lead Fellowship | Malawi Nyasa Times

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An all-out driven Malawian industrious and dedicated Public Health expert and Medical Doctor, Dr. Bridget Msolomba-Malewezi has been awarded the prestigious Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) Fellowship for her continued selfless and concerted efforts in promoting women in global health.

The renowned Malawian Public Health professional, Dr. Msolomba-Malewezi who is popularly known as Dr. B has been conferred upon the global health distinguished accolade alongside four other medical professionals from across the globe.

Awarded for Women Global Health hard work and dedication: Dr. Bridget Msolomba Malewezi

Dr. Msolomba-Malewezi expressed gratitude over the fellowship award describing it as a greater honour not only to her but to Malawi as country and in particular, the women.

She said: “As a leader of various local women’s organisations, I believe the skills and knowledge I will gain from participation in the fellowship will elevate the quality and standard of work that I individually as well as the organisations I work with produce.

“The executive leadership training and courses will help build cohesive and collaborative teams as I intend to share what I learn with my fellow women and leaders and generate thriving and active women-led organisations that will contribute as entities to the women’s health agenda in Malawi and globally.”

Bridget Msolomba Malewezi is a medical doctor, public health practitioner, motivational speaker, activist & health columnist. She is a graduate of the University of Malawi College of Medicine & Emory University, where completed her MPH with a focus on Global Health.

She is currently the Vice President of the Malawi Chapter of Women in Global Health (WGH) as well as Acting Chair of the task force for the establishment of the Women Doctors Association of Malawi (WDAM). She is one of the founding members and currently an executive member and chairperson of Public Relations and COVID Public Awareness for the Society of Medical Doctors Malawi (SMD).

She has worked in various capacities including Country Director for Seed Global Health Malawi focusing on health systems strengthening and human resources for health (HRH).

Prior to that, she served in various roles including Program Manager at Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) providing technical assistance to several government departments on the introduction of new vaccines for childhood illnesses as well as reproductive health.

Her health column in the local national newspaper, Malawi News, which has been penning for over a decade, and currently, she has broadened this into social media pages on Facebook and Instagram – ‘DrBonHealth’ – sharing information on health and most recently on COVID.

In November 2020, she was awarded a Doctor of Excellence award by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Malawi (CPSM) in recognition for her dedication, leadership, and years of service to the medical fraternity.

In an effort to support the development of a diverse pool of women leaders in global health, the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Women and Health Initiative (W&HI) within the Global Health and Population Department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers the Harvard LEAD Fellowship for Promoting Women in Global Health.

The fellowship is a year-long program designed to advance the leadership skills of talented global health leaders from low- and middle-income countries who are committed to the mentorship of future women leaders in medicine and public health.

In a press statement Harvard Global Health Institute and the Women and Health Initiative said they are thrilled to introduce and welcome the 2021 Cohort of Harvard LEAD Fellows.

The fellows include, the Malawian, Dr. Msolomba- Malewezi, Dr. Mareli Claassens from Namibia, Dr. Preethi John from India, Alice Kayongo, from Uganda and Julieta Kavetuna also from Namibia.

“Based on their specific goals, our 2021 fellows will spend their time at Harvard University engaging in tailored leadership training, mentoring, and networking opportunities, including independent work supported by Harvard-based faculty mentors,” reads the statement in part from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Adding: “During the fellowship year, the fellows will have access to world-class faculty, classes, and executive education programs. They will be both encouraged and challenged in new and inspiring ways.”

The full fellowship curriculum, including leadership workshops, mentorship relationships, and classes will begin virtually in the fall of 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions. In early 2022, we are looking forward to welcoming the fellows to Cambridge and Boston, MA.

‘Beginnings’

Growing up in Malawi as the daughter of a nurse and an actuarial scientist, Bridget Malewezi was fascinated by her mother’s nursing books and dreamed of a career in medicine.

Today, as the Malawi Country Representative for Seed, Dr. Malewezi is applying her training and experience in medicine and public health in the hope of having an even larger impact on the health care system in Malawi.

“My mom’s books were a lot more interesting than my dad’s formulas,” Bridget recalls. “There were pictures, there were anatomy books. Growing up I spent a lot of time kind of reading through them, fascinated by the idea of medicine.”

But it was the death of her younger sister that truly inspired her to be part of improving health care in Malawi. Bridget was only 13 when her nine-year-old sister was bitten by a rabid dog. “We took her to the clinic, but they said there was nothing to worry about. Two months down the line, she passed away because it was too late to do anything. I could tell even then, without any medical training, that there were things that could have been done that were not done… That is what drives me now, to provide the best possible care that you can despite the challenges.”

After completing her secondary education in South Africa and her medical training at the University of Malawi College of Medicine, Bridget was one of the first physicians employed at the new DaeYang Luke Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi. There she worked closely with hospital staff to coordinate and build the various systems within the hospital,

“It was a lovely experience because I was working with people to set up a system, how the hospital should run,” she says. In the process, she gained an intimate understanding of how broader policies impact hospitals, staff, and patients.

“I liked clinical work, but what really drives me is to see the improvement of health care in Malawi, to impact the policies and decisions that are being made. I really wanted to be able to assist in making those in-country decisions on how health care should move.” So in 2011, she took a job with the Clinton Health Access Initiative. And three years later she went to Emory University in Atlanta to pursue her Master’s in Public Health.

After completing her MPH, she returned to Malawi and enjoyed spending some time at home with her daughter while looking into and applying for a job she had heard about from one of her college friends – the Seed Country Representative position.

Msolomba – Malewezi said: “The reason I found the role interesting was to have a local person in-country, with local expertise, building up the program and thinking through ways it could be done in a culturally sensitive and productive way, responding to local needs and priorities.”

What particularly attracted Bridget to Seed was the emphasis on building local capacity by working with partner institutions to educate the next generation of nurses and doctors as care providers, educators, and health system leaders.

“A lot of other programs do good work, but then they leave,” she explained. “The impact is there, but it goes away as soon as they go. So having someone in country to really work with the program and ensure that it does cover the gaps, it does assist in capacity building and improving health care, in a way that there is sustainable, long-term impact in the country that we can see and benefit from continuously, even if the program eventually phases out.”

She added: “That’s what really motivated me to join the program — to be the local voice, the local ‘think tank,’ and make sure the program is addressing the issues that are important.”

Bridget Msolomba Malewezi is married to renowned celebrated poet, Q Malewezi.

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