Faculty Perspectives: Joseph Egger
Joseph Egger, PhD, Research Scholar, Duke Global Health Institute
Bass Connections Project Team: Evaluation of Scaling Innovative Healthcare Delivery in East Africa
Dr. Egger led a Bass Connections project team that investigated factors affecting scalability in healthcare innovation and ways that social entrepreneurship can impact the acceptance and success of health interventions. The project team focused on evaluating clinical quality improvements of a small health care entrepreneur in Kenya and explored how to produce evidence that practices either work or don’t work to scale up entrepreneurship in the health sector.
We asked him a few questions about his Bass Connections experience; below are excerpts from our conversation.
Private enterprises’ role in health
The Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke, SEAD, was starting its second year of a five-year cooperative agreement with USAID to look at scaling social entrepreneurs in the health and health care space. I’ve been running a program evaluation of the project, and I also chair the research component.
SEAD has a strong programmatic component, where there’s a team at Duke and affiliated nonprofits who are running programs to help support these entrepreneurs. There are 25 entrepreneurs currently in the program. All are private enterprises.
A particularly interesting aspect of this, for me, is how do they interact with their ecosystems? Do they grow and scale up in the same way, and how do they interact with the public sector, the Ministry of Health, other agencies in their country and other private enterprises?
Krishna Udayakumar and I started talking about if this would be appropriate for Bass Connections because SEAD is highly interdisciplinary. It seemed like a really good idea to bring some students into this, partly selfishly because we just wanted ideas! It seemed like a great educational opportunity for us and for students.
Fresh perspectives, interdisciplinary contributions
We had two undergraduate students from different backgrounds. Young students in particular come at global health in a much different way than the way I was taught—in school I was never exposed to private enterprise’s role in health—and so they really bring a fresh perspective on the ways that private enterprise or free market systems can help or hinder global health and access to health.
We had one master of public policy student from Sanford. She had this great public policy view, a much more macro view on policy. Our work in East Africa was about how larger policies fit in or don’t with what these small entrepreneurs are doing. She was terrific in helping us think through these higher-scale things.
We had one PhD student in Nursing, and one PhD student in Pharmacology/Cancer Biology. The Nursing student has done a lot of global health workforce training and was great from a clinical perspective. The PhD student in Cancer Biology was incredibly well self-educated on entrepreneurship and private-sector work and was just terrific on the entrepreneurial side of things.
We’re writing a paper together, and as a group we went to the CUGH conference and presented a poster. That was a great experience. And a couple of our students participated in a case competition and actually won!
It’s been a really interesting experience to merge the global health side and the business school side, because we don’t always come at problems the same way. We’re all learning a lot in this process.
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