Updates on activities of Dr Alex Godwin Coutinho (The Laureate of the Second Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for Medical Services)2019

Please see also the updates of 2015:Newsletter No.11

Updates on activities

Dr. Alex Godwin COUTINHOI continued as Executive Director of Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), Makerere University until October 2014, where IDI continued to support 100,000 HIV+ receive HIV treatment and also provided comprehensive HIV prevention services including safe male circumcision for >150,000 people. A special project I initiated and led during this period was the Saving Mothers Giving Life project (SMGL) which supported a district of 700,000 population to scale up proven interventions to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. In the 5 years from 2013 – 2018 the project I started has reduced maternal mortality by 60%.

During the period of 2014-2015, I served in 3 roles:

  • a) Through Accordia Global health I helped respond to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa by building capacity of 12 Nigerian universities to be first responders and prevent the re-spread of Ebola to Nigeria. This involved training multiple cadres in theoretical and practical skills of best practice response to Ebola.
  • b) Through Accordia Global Health, I spearheaded the early establishment of a Child Wellness center in Malawi in collaboration with the University of Malawi, to research interventions for early childhood development.
  • c) In collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Global Health, I was part of a large team that scoped and initiated the Pre-term Birth Initiative (PTBi) implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda which focuses on prevention and proper mangment of pre-term birth. I continue to serve on the strategic advisory group of the initiative.

For close to 3 years from 2015 to 2018, I served as the Executive Director of Partners in Health in Rwanda, working seamlessly with the government of Rwanda to provide better health care and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for a population of 1,000,000 Rwandans in 3 districts. This work involved supporting Rwanda to use the WHO building blocks and a solid primary health care system and referral system to the district hospital level to provide essential services on the basis of UHC. In addition we provided specialist pioneer services that continue to help Rwanda plan for and scale up these specialist services across Rwanda These specialist services were:

  • a) The only specialist oncology service in Rwanda.
  • b) A network of 3 neonatal intensive care units use for care of preterm babies and vulnerable neonates. The facilities also are used for health care training in neonatal care.
  • c) A countrywide network for non-communicable diseases (NCD) management, focusing particularly of diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases and asthma.
  • d) A community based mental health program that was scaled up to cover the 3 districts/1,000,000 population and that decentralized the care of both mild and severe mental illness.

During the period of 2014 -2018, I continued to be involved in several global health leadership roles and initiatives:

  • a) I was selected by my Board peers to be the first African Chair of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in 2013, and I completed my term as Chair in 2016.
  • b) I rejoined the board of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) where I had previously served as the first African Chair of the board. We are in the end stage of trying to introduce an HIV prevention tool for women.
  • c) I continue to serve on the WHO malaria eradication strategy Advisory board.
  • d) I served on the Board of trustees as well as a senior lecturer at the University of Global health Equity in Rwanda.
  • e) I serve on the board of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative Advisory board advising Ashinaga Foundation on its continued investment in supporting African Orphans.
  • f) I have recently joined the Technical Advisory Group for a Global health Fellowship program funded by USAID to mentor future Global health leaders across the globe.

Additional awards since Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize:

  • a) National Heroes Independence medal in 2013
  • b) Honorary PhD by University of Zurich in 2015

Message for young people regarding a productive career

I came from humble beginnings living in a small two-roomed house with an outside toilet. But my mother made sure we got the best education she could afford and emphasized the importance of learning and curiosity so that one can self-teach and self-learn for the rest of your life. This meant that I could build a future that was different from my humble past and travel the world, serve a global community and rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the world. SO DON’T BE TRAPPED OR RESTRICTED BY YOUR PAST BUT INSTEAD USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE.

I always dreamt and wanted to be a doctor, we grew up in a hospital compound in Jinja hospital in Uganda and I would always admire the doctors and nurses working there. So I made sure I studied and especially those subjects needed to enter medical school and become a doctor. SO HAVE A DREAM AND FOLLOW YOUR DREAM BECAUSE WHAT YOU DREAM AND WHAT YOU LOVE WILL THE PROFEESION THAT YOU DO BEST AND THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

As my career progressed, I moved from direct care of individual patients to leading and guiding large teams of doctors and nurses to run large projects that eventually delivered care to large populations exceeding 1,000,000 people. This required me to learn new skills in leadership, management and finance among many others. SO LEARNING DOES NOT END AND BE READY TO LEARN NEW AND DIFFERENT SKILLS TO BE ABLE TO SERVE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

Because of my humble origins and the pain and suffering I saw when treating poor patients I always worked/served where any person could access health care free of charge. We now call this Universal Health Coverage. My greatest satisfaction was to heal people and not to get rich, and yet by pursuing my principles and passion I achieved great success. SO LIVE BY YOUR PRINCIPLES AND YOU WILL BE REWARDED IN THE END.

In order to achieve what I have achieved in my 35 year career it was necessary to build and lead teams of passionate and hardworking people who came together to achieve a vision and mission, and make the world a better place for the people we served. So even though I started out as a doctor, I needed very good people management skills to build and lead these teams. These people management/leadership skills can be learnt from a very early age so I urge young people to engage in sports, social activities, community volunteer activities etc. that build these skills. SO INVEST IN YOUR SELF AND YOU WILL REAP THE REWARDS.

While my career was in medicine and health care delivery, the principles above are relevant to any field you chose to pursue.

Visiting patients’ homes to deliver care

Program in Rwanda (Oncology)

Keynote speaker at HIV Research for Prevention (HIV R4P) in 2014

With Ashinaga Scholars at his house in Uganda