March 21, 2011

Why We Do What We Do: Betsy Bradley

Betsy Bradley, faculty director at GHLI, received an email in 2005 that would take her career path all over the map - literally. The chief executive officer of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ed Wood, knew one of Betsy’s students, Kaakpema Yelpaala at the School of Public Health. The student told Mr. Wood about Betsy’s expertise in hospital administration and thought she was someone he should speak with about his public health initiatives.

Mr. Wood wanted to meet with Betsy about public health efforts in Ethiopia. Betsy’s initial response was “Why me? I have never even been to the African continent!” She wrote back to Mr. Wood with one available time to meet and to her surprise, he agreed. Betsy invited other faculty to the meeting, hoping their interests would match up with the Foundation’s work. But she was inspired by the energy of the Clinton group and realized her expertise could be used in Ethiopia. “The global health experts I knew were focused on HIV and infectious disease. I did not realize how important finance, quality improvement, and leadership could be to global health. I realized that I had experience and skills that could help improve the management of their hospitals,” explained Elizabeth, “which was exactly what the Clinton Foundation and the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia wanted, it turned out.”

Once she agreed to take on the new challenge, one of Betsy’s first steps was to contact Martha Dale. “Martha was an alumna from our Health Management Program, which I directed at the time, and CEO of Leeway Hospital,” explained Betsy. Together, they sketched out goals for two weeks in Ethiopia. After visiting 14 hospitals and meeting the people during their trip in January 2006, Betsy felt committed to the program. After doing our assessment, we said “Ahhh, we can help here. Thinking about what could be grabbed my imagination,” said Betsy.

Betsy’s background gave her capacity for leadership of this type of project. After growing up in a financially depressed, industrial town in Connecticut, she always thought about how she could work across boundaries and use resources effectively. Traveling to Ethiopia, she felt she could do the same thing and was able to see research translate into practice. Betsy shared how her work not only gave her energy, but also inspired her. “Hospital staff and patients are so grateful when things work well – when medications are available, when you do not have to wait all day to be sent home without care, when the laboratory is functioning. You cannot stop when you see the potential and the impact.”

Betsy says success extends to the Yale community through student involvement. “If young minds can think differently on how to engage with people who are not like yourself you can shift the world over time.”

Amanda Sorrentino, GHLI Intern

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