The Next (and Last?) Generation of Maternal Health Experts Making Mother’s Day Their Work Day

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By: Tim Thomas, Senior Advisor, MHTF

Writing from Accra where the gardens are blossoming and the intense heat of summer is lurking, a Mother’s Day approaches that promises real hope for the world’s mothers.

Eight months into their nine-month internships, the Young Champions of Maternal Health are nearing completion of their gestational studies before being born into the workforce as professional maternal health experts. They gathered here in Ghana’s capital for a Future Forum, their final class reunion under the auspices of the current program, to exchange lessons and ideas, and to plot their post-Young Champion career plans.

The intellectual and personal evolution of each Young Champion was profoundly inspiring. They first met at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Delhi last fall as group of smart, idealistic and aspiring young people seeking to make a difference in the world by saving mothers lives. They emerged in Accra as a smart, idealistic but pragmatic and experienced group of young people determined to buck the odds and apply their innovation in the professional world.

Ashoka Fellows from around the region came to help them think through business models and organizational structures. They heard from the Acumen Fund and the Gates Foundation about financing alternatives. The grandfather of the maternal health movement, Professor Fred Sai, welcomed them to his hometown and shared his life and career in an intimate discussion setting. And finally, every Young Champion was given 3 minutes to present their project to a panel of experts who provided candid feedback to help them fine-tune the deliverable each of them is obliged to submit at the end of their internships.

Their innovations, their persistence and their commitments humbled every seasoned expert who encountered them over the 3-day meeting. It was clear that this generation of young maternal health experts is determined to be the last one. They’re committed to eradicating preventable maternal mortality in their lifetimes.

What could be a better mother’s day gift?