Gloria Kulaya Kiondo types on a laptop

A Jewel of an Opportunity

By Jackie Powder

As a medical officer at Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania, Gloria Kulaya Kiondo watched too many children die—most from treatable illnesses like anemia, malaria and acute diarrheal disease. She remembers feeling helpless to prevent deaths that shouldn't have occurred.

The painful experience helped the young doctor come to a critical decision last year.

"I didn't want to wait for people to get sick so I can treat them, I wanted to go to the preventive side to educate them about how to remain healthy and how to prevent sickness," says Kiondo, who gave up her plans to become an internist, and will pursue a new goal when she enrolls in the MPH program at the Bloomberg School in July. Kiondo will begin her studies as one of the School's first De Beers African Health Scholars in a new program designed to provide African graduate students with the knowledge and practical skills they need to become public health leaders in their home countries.

Funded by the diamond mining and marketing company based in South Africa, the De Beers scholarship provides full tuition for the 11-month MPH program and a stipend that includes living and transportation expenses. De Beers, which supports 16 AIDS-related projects in Africa, has committed to supporting two African Health Scholars at Hopkins each year for three consecutive years.

"I want people to say I did something good for the majority," says Kiondo, who coordinates research activities at Muhimbili National Hospital for Axios, an Ireland-based health care consulting firm. "As a student, I did very well but I got to thinking what can I do with my knowledge? And I can try to make something better for others."

Achamyelesh Kifle, an associate dean at the Armed Forces Teaching General Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will join Kiondo as a De Beers Scholar for the 2006-2007 academic year. Kifle is a pediatrician as well as a colonel in the Ethiopian military, whose work experience spans a broad range, from coordinating aspects of AIDS treatment at the national level to teaching battlefield trauma management. She hopes that the scholarship will allow her to return to Ethiopia better prepared to promote public health leadership at a community level, develop prevention programs and evaluate the effectiveness of public health strategies.

"In our country, the community has a very important role and people live more collectively," Kifle says. "I think one of the most important challenges is to tap this kind of community effort, and with additional resources, direct it toward a common goal."

Ron Brookmeyer, PhD, chair of the School's MPH program, says that the De Beers African Health Scholars program eases some of the financial concerns often faced by international students, who typically have limited resources to pursue their education abroad. The program also seeks to stem the "brain drain" among health professionals in Africa. "Clearly, we were looking for students who want to develop expertise in public health and take that back to Africa," Brookmeyer says.