Alumni Spotlight: Ben Pyne and Bekah Thayer Pyne – Global Health Corps Fellows

Ben Pyne and Bekah Thayer Pyne graduated from BHP in 2013. They met in the program and married a few years after graduating. They both went to work as Deloitte Strategy & Operations consultants, but after three years, they felt called to use their skills to further social justice causes of importance to them. In the fall, they both became Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellows and moved to Kampala, Uganda. It has been a big adjustment for them, but they are loving the experience and the work they are doing.

As a GHC Fellow, Ben is working with IntraHealth International as a Health Worker Performance Management Officer. The organization’s mission is to improve the performance of health workers and strengthen the systems in which they work. IntraHealth has partnered with local communities in over 100 countries since 1979 to make sure health workers are present where they are needed most, ready to do their jobs, connected to the technology they need, and safe to do their very best work.

In Uganda, IntraHealth is implementing a five-year USAID-funded project called Strengthening Human Resources for Health (SHRH). Across the country, a high rate of absenteeism in the public health workforce hinders patients’ access to care. The absenteeism rate has been estimated consistently above 40% in past years and stems from a number of systemic factors. In his role, Ben is planning, designing, implementing, and monitoring a sustainable system for tracking attendance of health workers and making data-driven decisions to manage absenteeism across the Ugandan healthcare system.

The SHRH Project builds capacity to manage HR (including attendance) data from the largest national hospital to the most remote facilities that may only have one formally trained health worker. This means involving central government stakeholders, 111 Ugandan decentralized districts, and health workers across thousands of health facilities. “Not surprisingly, working in this role and in this context has been a huge challenge and growth opportunity for me both personally and professionally,” said Ben. “Still, I am thrilled to be one of many helping to solve such a systemic and troublesome problem impacting Ugandans’ healthcare.”

Bekah is working with Days for Girls (DfG) as a Monitoring & Evaluation Officer. DfG’s mission is to create a more dignified, free, and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions. The mission is carried out in three main ways – through offering locally-made, high-quality washable menstrual hygiene Kits; reproductive health education training; and women-led enterprise development. Days for Girls has already reached over 640,000 women and girls in 100+ countries.

“When you give a woman or girl a Days for Girls Kit, you give back days of education, health, and economic opportunity that would otherwise be missed,” said Bekah “Equipping half of our global talent pool isn’t just the right thing to do – it has an insurmountable impact on the growth and development of our societies.” A UNESCO report estimates that in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 1 in 10 girls miss school during their menstrual cycle.

Bekah is developing the infrastructure, tools, and evaluation systems for the global M&E department. “Days for Girls’ innovative approach to empowering women captured my heart along with the role which is perfectly aligned with my desire to use data to promote gender parity.” A report by No Ceilings points out “Only by collecting consistent and complete data can governments and policymakers fully understand the issues facing women and girls, develop targeted solutions, and measure progress or lack thereof.” Bekah created digital field data collection tools which work without an internet connection to ensure the organization can manage information across all of the areas in which they work no matter how remote. She’s excited to see how the new M&E systems are helping Days for Girls make data-driven decisions and share the impact of their work in a credible and tangible way.

The Global Health Corps program operates a partnership model. All fellows work in teams of two at each placement organization, with one national fellow and one international fellow. Both Bekah and Ben have greatly enjoyed and benefited from that model. They are also enjoying the program’s commitment to producing tangible results and the structured professional development opportunities during the fellowship year.

Ben and Bekah have another four months of work through GHC and their placement organizations in Uganda. After completing the year-long fellowship, they plan to combine their past corporate experience with their field experience to continue their pursuit of careers in development and social innovation. Ben and Bekah assert that despite the stresses of working in a new field, living in a new country, and no longer benefiting from corporate America’s generous benefits, pursuing these opportunities has been one of the most interesting, joy-giving, and enriching experiences of their lives.

BHP Sophomore Alexandra Mulconnery Wins National IGNITE Challenge

Natalie Weston, Alexandra Mulconnery, Sofia Aranha and Hadia Aziz (CMN Hospitals manager) post with their awards.

Written by Alexandra Mulconnery, BHP sophomore

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) (the charity behind Texas THON) hosted their first-ever case competition, The IGNITE Challenge, this year with a series of rounds from January to March. Four universities competed – UT Austin, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, and Utah. I, along with two friends (Natalie Weston – Civil Engineering, and Sofia Aranha – Dance and Economics) formed a team to compete.

The IGNITE challenge was designed to provide a real-life innovation experience for the non-profit, which has raised more than $5 billion since 1983 to help pay for critical care and medical equipment at its more than 170 member hospitals. In partnership with The Baker Family Foundation, CMN was seeking peer-to-peer and new generation fundraising solutions to stay ahead of technology and cultural shifts in donation behaviors. The proposed initiative needed to raise funds of $250,000 in the first year and $5,000,000 by the fifth with a budget of $50,000 for the first year and a cost-per-dollar of less than $0.10.

We started by researching CMN and the fundraising behaviors of the new generation.  After several drafts, we settled on our final idea, Hometown Heroes. Our proposed Hometown Heroes program would allow more Miracle Kids to become ambassadors to their hospitals, and would create a high school internship program. The interns would be paired with their local hospital’s Hometown Heros to create a unique fundraiser tailored to the hero’s interest as well as the community. We structured it to fit into CMN’s brand, existing initiatives and the hospital’s capabilities.

Our team, Female Logic, was selected based on our initial proposal and video to participate in the semi-finals at UT. We were then put forth to the finals, which were hosted during the annual Momentum conference at Disney World. It was a great excuse to extend spring break a few days, and an amazing opportunity to participate in the conference and be inspired by all of the Champions (Miracle Kids representing each state).

We presented to a panel of six judges, and we were shocked to find out we had won. The following two days, we had the opportunity to present two more times to various heads at CMN, and to discuss the implementation of our idea with them. We were also able to attend sessions on innovation and fundraising, interview with Miss America, and participate in a pin exchange with all of the Champions. The entire experience was very rewarding and fun, and I hope to find more case competitions that are as meaningful and engaging as IGNITE has been.