Focusing on MEPI: Two Views with Common Goals

Heather RossIt is rare that a person is able to view one event through two lenses. I was privileged to be able to do so as I moved to CapacityPlus from a position with the Coordinating Center of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at George Washington University (GWU).

The Medical Education Partnership Initiative
MEPI is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and supports African medical schools as they work to further PEPFAR’s goal of increasing the number of new health workers by 140,000. It is a network of more than 30 medical schools in sub-Saharan Africa that is supported by the Coordinating Center, a joint effort of GWU and the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation, and by other stakeholders, including CapacityPlus.

Each year, the MEPI Network comes together at an annual symposium, allowing stakeholders to discuss collaboration toward MEPI goals. This year’s symposium occurred as I made my career transition. The coincidence allowed me to see the meeting from two stakeholders’ points of view: the Coordinating Center’s and CapacityPlus’s.

The 2012 MEPI Symposium focused on two things: the themes of MEPI (improve the quality and quantity of graduates, retain these health workers in their countries, and strengthen regionally-relevant research) and sustainability (MEPI has a five-year mandate).

Through the Coordinating Center lens
The symposium is a massive undertaking for the Coordinating Center, requiring melding the needs of MEPI schools, funders, and other stakeholders while planning and hosting a meeting in a country far away (in this case, Ethiopia). Looking at it as I did from GWU, I saw dozens of moving pieces—technical substance, logistical issues, funding, management, and the need to create a truly collaborative meeting—but it was difficult to see the symposium as a whole.

Through the CapacityPlus lens
I began my time with CapacityPlus on the day the Coordinating Center staff returned from Addis Ababa. One of the first things I heard was a comment from CapacityPlus’s representative to the symposium, Ian Couper, director of the Witwatersrand University Centre for Rural Health in South Africa. He wrote, “I believe GWU has won a lot of trust [from the MEPI Network]”—a gratifying remark to someone so recently with the Coordinating Center!

Reading Professor Couper’s report also helped me see CapacityPlus’s eagerness to interact with the MEPI Network, and to define areas where the project could support network schools. For instance, he highlighted a joint interest in developing clinical teachers and building capacity in monitoring, evaluation, and research on improving health professional education. In short, Professor Couper saw the whole symposium, and helped me see it, too.

As MEPI’s work continues, I will work to integrate the “CapacityPlus lens” with my “Coordinating Center lens.” I look forward to working with the MEPI Network to support African institutions’ efforts to expand and enhance medical education on the continent.

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Photo 1 by Picture People, courtesy of Heather Ross. Photo 2 by Ian Couper (Ambassador Eric Goosby during the closing plenary).