This entrepreneur says health care for all starts with keeping local talent

Christopher Ategeka grew up with the devastating effects of not having health care access, having been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and losing his brother to malaria. But he got the chance to go to school and become an entrepreneur, and now he's using his influence to recruit health professionals to work in underserved parts of Africa. Ategeka gives his Brief but Spectacular take on health care for all.

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    Finally, another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from Christopher Ategeka. The Ugandan-born entrepreneur founded Health Access Corps. It's a nonprofit that aims to combat the shortage of health care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • CHRISTOPHER ATEGEKA, Health Access Corps:

    If you look at the United States, the doctor-patient ratio is about one doctor for every 390 people.

    But if you look at a country like Uganda, my home country, the doctor-patient ratio is one doctor for every 24,000 people. I see myself in these people all the time, because, at one point, I was them.

    I was raised by a deaf-mute grandmother. My father and mother both died of HIV and AIDS. And my brother died of malaria before his fifth birthday.

    I got an opportunity, through one of those send-an-orphan-to-school programs. You have seen a lot of programs around the world where you send a couple dollars across the globe to help an orphan. They go to school, and, you know, for you on the other side, you hope their life is somehow better.

    And, for me, my program that supported me, it offered a little more than just sending me to a local school. It said, we will send you to college.

    Being born in the rural parts of Uganda, and raised there, and seeing the devastating effects of not having health care access, there was no better place for me to apply my engineering talent than help individuals access quality health care.

    We are a nonprofit organization that recruits newly graduated doctors, nurses, and midwives, and places them to work in underserved regions. It all started with the problem of brain drain of health care professionals on the African continent.

    What we have learned is, no one wants to leave their food, their culture, their language, their family to go work elsewhere if they can find a job with the same conditions locally.

    And if you look at the global health systems, they spend a lot of time and money and resources sending medical volunteers to go work in developing countries on short-term missions. And they have good intentions.

    But if we could spend a small amount of that money and those resources, and empower the locally trained professionals to serve their own communities, in their own countries, we could have, you know, an exponential impact.

    I grew up in that environment. I know what it means not to have. You know, I wore my first pair of shoes when I was in my late teens. Being in the position that I'm in now of privilege to come back and help, there's no better place to be for me.

    My name is Christopher Ategeka. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on providing health care access for all.


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