Yale GHLI alumna leads efforts for more equitable heath care in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr. Amir Aman Hagos was so impressed with Dr. Lia Tadesse’s commitment to improving the country’s health care delivery system that he named her the newest state minister of health. Tadesse is one of the first graduates of the Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative’s (GHLI) Master’s in Hospital and Health Administration (MHA) program with Jimma University. 

The MHA is designed to equip program participants with the management and leadership skills needed to drive change in complex systems. Tadesse exemplified this in one of her first announcements in office of a new partnership between Tropical Health and Education Trust, Health Poverty Action, and Novartis Social Business, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, to train hospital and health center staff — ensuring that patients no longer need to travel long distances for treatment. The project will also train 2,250 health extension workers so they can bring non-communicable disease prevention and management education directly to local communities. In Ethiopia, almost 300,000 premature deaths a year are due to chronic diseases like diabetes, and respiratory and heart conditions.  “This is one of the most challenging projects we have undertaken as we transform Ethiopia’s healthcare system,” said Tadesse.

We are thrilled for Dr. Tadesse as she takes on this leadership role. Even when she was a Yale/Jimma MHA student we witnessed her uncompromising pursuit of the best possible healthcare. She is now bringing that same commitment to her work as state minister, and all of Ethiopia will benefit,” said Erika Linnander, director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative.

Tadesse, who was the former chief executive officer of Saint Paul Hospital, speaks often about her passion to become a doctor, which she had since childhood. “I saw women die from preventable deaths, and I knew I had to get involved with efforts to help stop it,” she says. She was one of only four female medical students at Jimma University, where she specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. She previously served as executive director of the Center for International Reproductive Health Training at the University of Michigan, where she focused on helping empower women.  “Women are the anchors of their families and communities. Stronger, healthier women lead to more stable families and, ultimately, a more productive country.” 

As part of the Ethiopian Hospital Management Initiative, GHLI assisted with the design and implementation of the first Master’s of Hospital Administration degree program in Africa, launched in 2008 at Jimma University. The MHA program has since expanded to four additional Ethiopian universities and has been sustained well beyond the initial project period. More than 120 hospital executives graduated from GHLI-driven MHA programs in Ethiopia and have gone on to drive measurable improvements in the quality of their hospitals.