Fatsani Banda is a young woman carving a path for herself in the world of global health. Born and raised in Malawi, Fatsani studied journalism and worked in a number of organisations before gaining a fellowship at the Global Health Corps (GHC).
During her GHC fellowship year, Fatsani worked as a Procurement and Logistics Coordinator at Partners in Health stationed in Malawi. She helped manage a $500,000+ budget for the purchase and delivery of clinical items as well as the construction of new surgical wards. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, Fatsani helped implement an electronic stock management system for tracking drugs and essential commodities.
Following her fellowship, Fatsani remained with Partners in Health Malawi as an Operation Manager for two years. When Ebola hit Liberia, Fatsani was spurred to action and joined the Partners in Health team in Liberia, working as an Operations Manager to support in strengthen the country’s health systems.
In a former life, you worked at a bank. We’re always inspired by bold career moves, but tell us -why did you make the switch to global health?
My main drive in life comes from the desire to leave the world better than I found it. Global health is a platform for me to give back to this world.
Only healthy people can contribute to the development of society – even those who work in the bank have to be healthy to render their services.Global health is a platform for me to give back to this world - Fatsani Banda Click To Tweet
When most of us think about health, we think about doctors and nurses. How are you leading efforts to solve global health challenges despite not having any medical training?
When I stepped into the health sector as a Global Health Corps fellow in Malawi in 2012, I had a similar perception. Over the past five years, it has become very clear to me that factors beyond medical training are important determinants of health and access to healthcare.Fatsani Banda shows that you can have a career in health despite having no medical training Click To Tweet
There are remote areas in developing countries that have a good number of physicians, but patients still do not get the essential drugs they need to prevent and treat disease because there is no functioning system to make this medicine accessible. This is where I fit in. My job is to collaborate with medical personnel and vendors to bridge these gaps and strengthen supply chain systems.
In the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, many people moved away from the region. What motivated you to leave your home country of Malawi to help with relief efforts in Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries?
Just as I did nothing to earn decent health services throughout my life, those born in Liberia with a dearth of health resources similarly did nothing to deserve such conditions.
Perhaps because of my undeserved good fortune, I feel an obligation and a desire to help rectify inequity. It’s been so rewarding to serve the people of Liberia, whose health system was in shambles before the intervention by Partners in Health (PIH).
The Ebola situation has calmed down, but you’re still working on rebuilding health systems. What does a typical day look like for you?
Most developing (and even some developed) countries have entrenched health problems, and Liberia is not spared. Working with PIH to strengthen the health system in Liberia has been quite thrilling in many ways.
On a daily basis, we see our interventions impacting, and often times saving, people’s lives. We provide modern healthcare options and supply essential medicine in communities which are far from the capital.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work as a health equity leader so far? What’s been the most challenging?
Progressive service delivery is what makes me happy. As part of PIH’s Operations department, I work with a team that is the hub of all functionalities of the organization. Seeing patients getting the lifesaving drugs they need in the rural facilities that we support really keeps my heart at peace!
The flip side of this is the challenging part –Liberia’s road network, especially in rainy season, is very poor and is often the cause of delays in operations. Accomplishing our planned tasks becomes hard in this situation, but we have to carry on.
It seems like your work, by nature, is very collaborative. What it’s like to join efforts with people across sectors and borders to improve health outcomes?
The greatest ideas are the ones that are dreamed up by teams of people. When two or more people gather and brainstorm around a challenge, the probability of getting an excellent outcome is high.Fatsani Banda: The greatest ideas are the ones that are dreamed up by teams of people Click To Tweet
I find the nature of my job very thrilling as it involves cooperating with other people who have different perspectives from mine. Together we think up and implement solutions to the difficult challenge of strengthening the health systems of Liberia.
You also supervise and mentor other young health equity leaders who are following in your path. What’s the best piece of advice you share with them?
Everybody has a role to play in this work. Title and rank do not matter as much as people think –anyone can step up as a leader and come up with an idea.
The supervisors and managers in any work environment depend highly on their subordinates. I usually share with my team that we need bottom-up efforts, collaboration, and a commitment to long-term change to be successful.
The world feels very chaotic right now, and new health and development challenges are emerging every day. What motivates you to keep working for a brighter future?
We all hope for the best, but the best cannot happen whilst we are just seated. We have to have our minds focused on making good health a reality for all at all times.
Whilst new health challenges are cropping up, building equitable systems is what will allow us to deal with them. I constantly remind myself that change is possible and celebrating progress keeps me motivated.
What three words would you use to describe the best boss you ever had?
The best boss I ever had was supportive, hardworking and a team player.
What is one leadership mantra that you live by?
Self-ship is the enemy of leadership.
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