January 23, 2024

A Public Health Student’s Journey at Maisha Meds

By Root Woldu

Root Woldu was working toward a Master’s in Public Health at Harvard while serving as the Analyst to the CEO at Maisha Meds.

From day one at Maisha Meds, I was immersed in various levels of what a major global health organization does to improve healthcare delivery using technology in areas where resources are often limited.

While I was new to the health technology space, some of the best tech uses age-old public health practices to make an impact. At Maisha Meds, that means designing and implementing mobile software for private drug shops, pharmacies, and clinics across Africa in ways that make health care more accessible. It means going directly to where millions of patients are already seeking health care in their communities.

And when you’re working with an organization whose operations span four diverse countries, that also demands a nuanced understanding of each place, both on the ground and in my own work developing research proposals, building reports for partners, and supporting communication initiatives to amplify the organization’s impact.

Meanwhile, I’ve been pursuing my Master of Public Health, or MPH, degree at Harvard. This experience has enabled me to combine theoretical knowledge from my classes with hands-on experience at an innovative organization — from partnerships to implementation to measuring outcomes. For instance, while my coursework delved into case studies on global health funding, at Maisha Meds I was able to actively engage in this work, showcasing our work on antimicrobial resistance to Pfizer, for example. 

For someone like myself who has focused heavily on qualitative data, it was also a welcome challenge to take a close look at real-time numbers of medicine sales in Nigeria for our work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Central to my role was helping to frame the larger story behind those numbers, focused on the impact we’re making to ensure people are getting the right medications, when they need them, and at out-of-pocket costs that don’t pose a barrier.

In public health, where numbers often take precedence, projects like these required me to present data in accessible ways, to incorporate the broader public health context behind the numbers, and to not lose sight of the overarching narrative in how our efforts improve care at the last mile.

Splitting my time between academia and Maisha Meds was more than learning experience — it was a journey of personal and professional growth. As I take my next steps, I feel an even stronger commitment to becoming a catalyst for positive change throughout my career. I’m more driven than ever to build strategic partnerships, promote cultural awareness, and apply innovative solutions to contribute to a healthier, more equitable world.

To my fellow public health students: Embrace diverse opportunities that transform education into experience, bringing your studies to life. Consider how technology can solve age-old problems, where cutting-edge meets grassroots. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone — but don’t lose sight of the larger story.