GHLS Blog Series: Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity

December 05, 2022

The Global Health Landscape Symposium is just a few days away. This year’s convening will focus on generating progress and seizing on the potential of global health that has been so clearly illustrated throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We wanted to get a jump start on the conversation by talking to the organizations that will be joining us on December 7 and 8. Today, we’re speaking with Guen Burke, Program Director of Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity, and a sponsor of this event.

The last in-person Global Landscape Symposium took place in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. What are the biggest challenges you and your organization have encountered in the three years since then?

Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity is a one-year fellowship for early-mid career leaders in health. The fellowship aims to develop global leaders who understand the foundations of health inequity and have the knowledge, skills, and courage to build more equitable organizations and communities. We have done so by providing intensive learning and growth experiences and connecting fellows in a network as they move forward in their careers. 

Our fellowship model was tested by COVID-19 and lockdowns – the 2020 and 2021 fellows only met in-person once during their fellowship years. Coming together as a group has always been a sustaining force for our fellows as they go back to their communities to put their health equity and leadership training into practice.  

While each of us experienced feelings of isolation and strain, being part of a global community with a shared purpose was also a powerful source of comfort and renewal. We used this time to develop a sustainable organization for the future and explore new ways for our Fellows to connect, learn and collaborate for greater impact. 

What are the most positive, encouraging developments that have emerged from this time period?

Once fellows graduate from the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity program year, they become part of a lifelong community of Senior Fellows. Our Senior Fellows rapidly mobilized to meet the urgent needs of their families, communities, and countries in new ways. Our community endeavored new models of ‘social distancing’ designed specifically for those with the least financial means, they created novel health communication approaches that respected cultural differences and rose to the call of health equity in 24 countries around the world. 

One example is Senior Fellow Jonatan Konfino who used support from the Atlantic Institute to create a system that could identify available hospital beds and coordinate efforts throughout the region to improve access to treatment with social justice as a priority. 

Our Fellows leaned on each other for emotional support and used the network to learn what was working in communities around the world, shaping ideas to help their own communities remain healthy during this time. 

The title of this year’s Symposium is “Meeting the Moment.” How do you think the global health community can best meet this unique moment in time?

Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity envisions a world in which the global community and its leaders strive to establish the conditions for all individuals and communities to achieve their full potential for health and well-being. We believe this can be accomplished by people – determined people, with the appropriate training, around the world. 

Ana Ortega met the moment by creating women’s circles in Chiapas, Mexico as part of her fellowship project and work as a psychologist with Compañeros en Salud. Megan Srinivas met the moment by running for and winning a seat in the Iowa state legislature in the United States to address the social determinants of health.  

For us, “meeting the moment,” means supporting these incredibly determined leaders so that they can continue to fight for health equity in communities across the world. 

This year is Global Health Council’s 50th anniversary. In your view, what has been the organization’s impact over the years? What would you like to see it do/achieve in the coming years?

The Global Health Council’s impact over the years has been to unite global health organizations, advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders around important topics such as health equity and global health security. In the coming years, we would like to see an enhanced focus on interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches to global health priorities.  

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Come find us at the Global Health Landscape Symposium as an exhibitor and learn more about our fellowship which will be opening a call for applications for our 2024 cohort soon on February 15!