February’s start up of the month: MedicineAfrica



Medicine Africa Alexander Finlayson

An interview with Alexander Finlayson, Director of MedicineAfrica and Academic Clinical Fellow in Primary Care.

What is MedicineAfrica and why is it needed?

MedicineAfrica is an online platform, creating a network of the global health workforce and which supports the people who build health systems. We are trying to act as a window between remote health systems to facilitate the sharing of skills and resources. Our largest programmes of training, training the trainers, collaborative research and service improvement are in Somaliland and Palestine.

Why hasn’t anyone else done this before?

I think when we started there was perhaps fewer people trying. Now it seems inevitable that there will be large transnational health system architecture, the market will drive it. Just as the current market will drive faster, quicker, cancer drugs. What is less clear is that this will serve the creation of a fairer global system of healthcare! This is the space MedicineAfrica is interested in – creating cutting edge technology to use the resource of rich health systems to build those that are poor.

What is your business model?

MedicineAfrica has been established through grant funding, it continues to require grant funding, in the longer term we are is establishing a Robin Hood funding model, without the robbing! In other words, in order to serve MedicineAfrica’s purpose of increasing equality in the global health system we will aim to help people build health systems through the redistribution of resources.

What does healthcare look like in 10 years time? And how does MedicineAfrica fit into that?

Hopefully healthcare will be more equitable globally and we will work out how to manage ageing better. I hope that healthcare or the broader body politic will become better at making society ‘well’ rather than just pushing it an arms race of ever escalating healthcare. Perhaps, MedicineAfrica will contribute to the first of these changes!

What were some of the unexpected hurdles?

There have been lots. I think a risk register is probably a really good idea!

What have been people’s reactions?

We’ve had great responses, including a positive independent evaluation which highlighted one of our key strengths – delivering high quality training to an international standard, while remaining relevant to the local community and integrating into existing training programmes in the country. We’ve also had great feedback on how our service can not only connect isolated health care workers within country, but internationally too.

Have you had any individual success stories or unexpected benefits yet?

Sure – we supported Dr Jibril Handuleh from Somalia in setting up the first mental health clinic in his local town, with funding, project management and clinical supervision. He also received mentoring from three psychiatrists through the platform and the clinic has been a great success and continues to serve the local population.

What are you looking for right now?

Someone to take on my role as CEO for the year 2015! I have someone in mind – but all enquiries welcome! I plan to focus on expansion.

What one piece of advice could you offer for someone wanting to make an impact on the future of healthcare?

Some people say persistence. Some people say iterate. Many people say other things. I wonder if the reality is perpetually trying to get to truth and a willingness and ability to solve complex problems on an ongoing basis.