May 9, 2012

Why We Do What We Do: Zahirah McNatt

Zahirah McNatt was always interested in working internationally, but that interest strengthened when she studied health services administration at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health. “I took a series of courses on international health,” says Zahirah. “One in particular about health and development was very intriguing. It presented a holistic approach to development and outlined the connections between health, economics, agriculture and trade policy.”

While pursuing her graduate degree, she interned in Detroit, Michigan and focused on infant mortality and access to care for the uninsured. Her first position in global health led her to Trinidad and Tobago where she worked on projects aimed at improving diabetes care and supporting the development of a master’s program in health administration. In the U.S., Zahirah held various positions, including a fellowship at MedStar Health and a board position at Baltimore Medical Systems. She focused her attention on supporting resource constrained communities, which she says often share similarities with developing nations.

Now, as the director of GHLI’s work in Ethiopia, Zahirah aides Yale’s efforts to improve the quality of government hospitals. “I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to national healthcare reforms and indirectly impact thousands of lives. I enjoy my work greatly,” she said.

In Ethiopia, Zahirah co-manages the development of the Ethiopian Hospital Alliance for Quality (EHAQ), which is led by the Federal Ministry of Health, to improve patient satisfaction throughout the country. Zahirah proudly relays that the work being done by GHLI, in collaboration with other organizations, has the potential to enhance the quality of service provided at every government hospital in Ethiopia.

Zahirah has previously described the challenge to offer high quality, accessible hospital care to all of Ethiopia as “daunting.” However, she believes the alliance is an important step toward increasing the community’s faith in the system and encouraging them to seek care when appropriate.

“Health care highlights the drastic inequalities that exist across countries and communities and our work allows us to, in some small way, decrease that inequality and ensure that the lives of all global citizens are considered to be of value,” McNatt said.

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