Alumni Innovators: Vanessa Kerry

Dr Kerry graduated with MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing in 2005. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive for Seed Global Health. She tells us about how she uses innovation in her work and how innovation can solve global health challenges.

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

I was in training as a medical doctor when I studied for my Master’s. I knew that LSHTM had one of the premium public health programs in the world, with faculty who were leaders in their field and which attracted a diverse, multinational student body. It was important to me to study in a system that was outside the United States and which explored the multifaceted aspects of health, including the historical, political, scientific, economic and social influences.

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

My time at LSHTM was a remarkable educational experience. The subjects and themes I studied have been central to my career to date. In 2011, I founded Seed Global Health, a non-profit organisation which focuses on the power of investing in health and the health workforce to transform countries. We are on an ambitious campaign to promote the power of health for social well-being, economic growth, and equity.  Through partnership with governments and in-country academic institutions, we have helped train over 16,000 doctors, nurses and midwives over the last five years and have impacted hundreds of thousands of lives. Seed’s unique role is in its leveraging model, where it can not only provide better care to patients but can also train future generations, support the health sector and catalyse change in the health system. Seed’s vision is unique and game-changing, focused on closing the gap in healthcare that still exists today.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is finding creative solutions to make life better. In health, it means finding ways to deliver better healthcare to more people and to make meaningful improvements in reducing the pain, suffering and disease of many. For me, it can range from the dynamic new technology to an engaged and in-depth approach to systems which has never been tried. It is about solving a problem in a way no one has thought about or implemented.

How can innovation solve global health challenges?

Innovation is central to solving any challenge in global health or in health writ large. There are vast health problems facing the world today, including population growth, growing inequality, existing burdens of communicable disease and growing burdens of non-communicable disease.  In order to close the profound gaps in health around the globe, we need to commit to innovative thinking and audacious investment. Both are possible.

How do you use innovation in your work?

Seed Global Health’s entire approach to addressing healthcare gaps in sub-Saharan Africa is rooted in innovation. We are focusing on one of the root causes of many of the health burdens – there are not enough doctors, nurses or health providers to deliver quality care and to ensure that no patient is left behind. As we look to the global goal of Universal Health Care to which the world just committed at the United Nations this Autumn, we must acknowledge that people will be essential to scaling up that care, and to ensuring we can train future generations of caregivers. Today there just are not enough providers and people are dying because of it. Healthcare will always be a human intervention, even when augmented by technology. Seed is investing in scaling up the essential health workforce that serves as the backbone of a health system, and empowering them to deliver more and better care. We leverage innovation daily to make our investments go further and deeper, and to lay the foundation of a health system for years to come.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice to others? Be authentic. Follow your gut. Go outside the box. And don’t be afraid to own your narrative.

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