Abundance Project for Global Health: Vision and Impact

Harvard Medical School’s Newsletter recently published an article about our very own Dr. Stephen Kahn and the work of the Abundance Foundation. The piece, titled Visionary Leadership in Global Health can be read below or at this link.

Stephen Kahn, MD, is inspired by the growth in the number of visionary leaders impacted by the Master of Medical Sciences in Global Health Delivery (MMSc-GHD) program at Harvard Medical School (HMS)—four students graduated from the program in 2014, while 16 are expected to earn degrees in 2020. To date, 48 students from 20 countries have completed the program. 

What’s even more significant, says Kahn—incoming chair of the Harvard Medical School advisory council on global health and service and a major benefactor of the MMSc-GHD program—is the impact these students are having on the world.

Kahn highlights how 2016 master’s graduate Mohamed Bailor Barrie, MD, created lasting change. Barrie (pictured above) came to the MMSc-GHD program as the co-founder of a health care system in a rural and neglected region of his native Sierra Leone—an area that happened to be 50 miles from the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people. When the outbreak began in 2014, Barrie was in Boston working toward his master’s degree. He was able to apply his health-systems learning to become a key conduit, connecting ministers of health, doctors and nurses, and community health workers in Sierra Leone with the HMS Global Health Research Core and Partners In Health (PIH). This enabled the quick and effective establishment of research and clinical programs on the ground—programs funded by Kahn and the Abundance Foundation.

“MMSc-GHD students become health multipliers, able to develop solutions to critical local and global health problems, effect systemic change, and ensure delivery of high-quality clinical care,” says Kahn, president of the Abundance Foundation. Through this foundation and the Harvard Abundance Fund, Kahn has given supported an array of global health programs as part of the Abundance Project for Global Health.

“Stephen is a visionary with a deep understanding of the need to develop and amplify the voices of those implementing global health programs,” says Joia Mukherjee, MD, MPH ’01, director of the MMSc-GHD program and of the Program in Global Medical Education and Social Change at HMS, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and chief medical officer of PIH.  

“His foundational support of the MMSc-GHD program has empowered clinicians, project managers, and activists to develop the skills to design, implement, and evaluate programs that directly improve the health of the world’s poor and marginalized in more than a dozen countries across the globe,” Mukherjee says. 

As part of the Global Health Delivery Intensive program, which is jointly offered by HMS, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and BWH, Kahn recently gave a lecture on the critical work of Chief Abundance Partner Louise Ivers, MB, BCh, BAO, MPH ’05, MD, associate professor of global health and social medicine in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS and executive director of the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ivers’ Abundance-funded research led to the use of the cholera vaccine during an epidemic for the first time, after a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. Thanks to Ivers’ leadership, the vaccine is now used worldwide to both respond to and prevent cholera epidemics.

Kahn has continued to advocate for critical global health research, including his most recent support of the Intermediate Operational Research Training (IORT) program under the direction of Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, SM ’05, PhD ’08, an associate professor of global health and social medicine at HMS and a member of the Global Health Research Core.

Dr. Stephen Kahn

“The IORT program has yielded 19 publications,” Kahn explains, “and has both trained and mentored a cadre of Rwandan researchers who’ve designed and executed rigorous, community-generated research that impacts local health systems.” Kahn’s gift will fund the publication of a special supplement in the Annals of Global Health, a peer-reviewed open access journal, highlighting IORT research.

“Our most recent research training resulted in eight papers—all led by Rwandan first-time first authors—describing innovative clinical programs,” says Hedt-Gauthier. “We will publish these papers along with details on our Harvard-PIH-BWH research and training partnerships, which will support replication of these embedded and collaborative efforts at other academic institutions,” she says.

Paul Farmer, MD ’90, PhD ’90, Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the HMS Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at BWH, and co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, says: “Over the last decade, Stephen’s unwavering and visionary support has transformed our department; helped to advance the careers of our faculty, staff, and students; and impacted the lives of countless patients and communities near and far. We are grateful to Stephen for his thoughtful partnership, visionary philanthropy, and devoted friendship.”