To close the gaps in life expectancy and health equity that exist within and between every country in the world, we need leaders — individuals who will have health equity as their mindset and health disparities reduction as their skillset. With this philosophy, Drs. Fitzhugh Mullan and Guenevere Burke along with Leigh Anne Butler and other members of the GW Institute for Health Workforce Equity team designed the Leaders for Health Equity (LHE) fellowship program. LHE was modeled after the success of the Residency Fellowship in Health Policy. Selam Bedada was the first full-time staff member hired to support for the fellowship program, and has since assumed leadership of the program as associate program director. The Atlantic Philanthropies provided funding for the Leaders for Health Equity program.
The Leaders for Health Equity fellowship program welcomed its first class of 15 Fellows. The 2017 cohort was instrumental in setting the course of the fellowship – learning health equity principles and leadership tools online and in-person at convenings in the United States and Rwanda at the University of Global Health Equity. The first class of Leaders for Health Equity also helped us recruit our next class of fellows, establishing a strong connection that is carried on today between our current and Senior Fellows.
What impressed me [about the fellowship] was the diversity of the fellows and how we were all intrinsically connected through this mission we chose to embark on.
BRIGIT CARTER ’17
The Leaders for Health Equity Fellowship program welcomed its second cohort and in April of 2018, the two LHE cohorts came together for the first-ever All-Fellows Convening at the Beyond Flexner Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Leaders for Health Equity worked from the premise that the underlying causes of inequity do not respect national boundaries and that exposure to potential solutions, both local and global, strengthens LHE graduates. That fit perfectly with the Atlantic Philanthropies’ mission to train and educate equity-focused leaders around the world. That is why in the summer of 2018, the Leaders for Health Equity Fellowship program joined the global community of Atlantic Fellows, and we became Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity (AFHE), receiving additional funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies to expand and extend our fellowship program.
Being an AFHE Fellow means that you are part of a global network of leaders, visionaries, artists, creators, government leaders, healthcare practitioners that are working towards a common cause of a more equitable, a more just world.
LES DUNCAN ’18
We welcomed our first cohort of the newly named Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity US + Global and expanded to 20 fellows, officially joining the Atlantic Fellows community. The funding enabled us to increase our internationally-based fellows, bringing a balance to the program that allows us to better address the issues of health equity that move across borders. In November of 2019, we lost one of our leaders and greatest advocates, Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan. This fellowship was one of the last, great legacies of a career spent in service and the fight for human rights. He guided our work from the very first conversation and when he knew his time was limited, he made sure our team and fellows were ready to carry on his fight. The GW Workforce Institute was renamed the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity in his honor.
This fellowship has really allowed me to expand my community and to learn and be inspired from other fellows and faculty, to really fill up my gas tank when I go back home, and enable my ability to keep fighting the good fight of health equity.
ADRIAN BILLINGS ’19
Our fellowship model was tested by COVID-19 and lockdowns – the 2020 fellows only met in person once during their fellowship year. Still, our community and fellows rose to the challenge while also being isolated and strained. We used this time to develop a sustainable organization for the future, finding ways for our Senior Fellows to connect, learn and collaborate for greater impact. The Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity Charter Committee was established and met for the first time in 2020, pledging to oversee the fellowship program as it continues to develop.
If there is anything I’ve learned from this fellowship, it’s that we are all leaders, that if we match our values and agree on a common shared purpose, all of that energy can only lead us to where we want to go but only better and faster.
LINDSLEY JEREMIAH VILLARANTE ’20
We reconsidered our programming and support of fellows in the changing landscape, increasing support of Senior Fellows and launching support funds for the many that remained devastated by the pandemic. The 2021 Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity cohort was the first cohort to begin their fellowship year virtually.
This fellowship has helped me acknowledge my own experiences and exhaustion and pain and to work on that healing, because it’s so crucial to do that to be able to show up at work and for my community in the ways that I want to.
CLAIRE THOMAS ’21
In February of 2022, we held our first All-Fellows Convening in Miami since the pandemic started, bringing together current and Senior Fellows to learn from each other and collaborate together. The 2021 cohort was able to have their final convening and graduation in-person, making up for lost time as they learned each other’s histories, heard each other’s stories, and officially joined the growing AFHE Senior Fellows community. The Atlantic Institute invited Global Atlantic Fellows from the past three years from all Atlantic Fellows programs to participate in the Global Atlantic Fellows Annual Convening in Phuket, Thailand where fellows were able to connect cross-program, establishing lifelong bonds. We also held our first-ever themed convening in Thessaloniki, Greece — AFHE Convening on Displacement & Health.