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Dome - In Kuwait, mentoring health care

March 2012

In Kuwait, mentoring health care

Date: March 5, 2012

International’s Zubin Kapadia, Rebecca Altman, Mohan Chellappa and Nicole Rosson are ready to assist Kuwait public health officials in improving health care standards.

In 2009, after the Kuwait Ministry of Health decided to overhaul the nation’s public health care system, it sought input from a number of renowned academic medical centers. Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) quickly responded with a proposal to the ministry. And then Hopkins waited—and endured.

Extensive discussions with the ministry led JHI to develop a new concept, one that focused on how outside academic medical centers could work with Kuwaiti hospitals. JHI managing director Zubin Kapadia and Mohan Chellappa, president of global ventures, stayed in touch with the ministry, even as the country’s parliament replaced their cabinet twice in 2011—a set of circumstances that required building new relationships after each change. Months passed, and Kapadia and Chellappa consistently answered questions and offered reassurance that Hopkins’ commitment remained firm.

Finally, on Christmas Day of 2011, the patience—and mutual trust—paid off. Realizing that Hopkins’ expertise and resources aligned with their needs, the Ministry of Health signed a five-year collaboration agreement to improve the quality and delivery of health care at four of Kuwait’s five public general hospitals.

The agreement also called for expanding the nation’s pool of administrative and clinical talent, and to assess and address national public health issues.

If the objectives of both parties are met, Kuwaiti citizens will have more consistent and even safer health care experiences, as well as reduced need to leave the country for medical care. Hospitals will operate more efficiently and more effectively, with less risk and reduced costs. The Ministry of Health will have a firmer grasp on public health issues and an expanded toolbox for addressing them. In short, mentorship from Johns Hopkins Medicine will have forever changed the entire national health care system.

This contract ensures a lasting impact on a region in which International already has an extensive portfolio. For example, JHI affiliates in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates continue to learn from the physicians, nurses and staff of the schools of medicine, nursing and public health.

“Our work at the community hospital level will set the foundation for much more advanced care in Kuwait for years to come,” Kapadia points out. He expects that this foundation will make Kuwait more attractive to specialists, which means more in-country health care options down the line.

The relationship between Kuwait and Hopkins will be like a mentorship, which Kapadia calls a more sustainable collaboration. “Instead of simply implementing changes, we’ll raise their level of capacity by instructing and guiding them over five years,” he says.

In Kuwaiti culture, successful mentorship requires carefully nurtured peer relationships, so that recommendations and advice are trusted and valued. Kapadia believes that this model will distinguish Hopkins in the marketplace, where most Western academic medical centers serve as leaders or managers, rather than as mentors or guides.

Mentors will sit in teams at the four hospitals and be divided between administrators, who will guide leadership in establishing hospital-wide policies and systems, and medical experts. These clinicians will certainly share best practices for procedures and treatments, and also for running a department.

A regional office will handle project-management details, recommending to the Ministry of Health strategic approaches to health administration and public health issues. The contract requires Hopkins to fill two public health official positions. From this office, they will be accessible to anyone within the public health system.

International currently is recruiting people, both from within Hopkins and outside of the institution, for both the regional office and the team for one of the hospitals. Teams for the other three hospitals will be recruited and deployed later this year.

From Baltimore, Rebecca Altman, director of the project, will make sure that the people on the ground in Kuwait have the resources to carry out their roles. She’ll also make frequent visits to the regional office. “We’ll empower a body of passionate, well-educated health care providers,” she says, “and enable them to make changes that will have broad impact on care delivery. What’s even better is that we’ll help them establish the pathways to continue improvements even after we’re gone.”

—Cymantha Governs