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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UNC Professor Leads Effort to Establish DrPH Degree Program in Africa

A UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health health policy and management faculty member and School alumna will lead a Rockefeller Foundation project to develop the first doctoral program in health leadership based in Africa.


Dr. Suzanne Havala Hobbs, clinical professor of health policy and management and nutrition at the Gillings School, and Gillings School alumna Dr. Irene Agypepong, faculty member in health policy planning and management in the University of Ghana (Legon) School of Public Health, are project directors.

The proposed Doctoral Programme in Health Leadership Africa (DrPH-HLA), in partnership with the Gillings School, will be a collaborative effort across four schools of public health in Africa – University of Ghana, Makerere University, University of the Western Cape, and University of Cape Town’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine. The program is modeled on the one Dr. Hobbs currently leads at the Gillings School.

“Good leadership, stewardship and management do not occur accidentally,” the project partners wrote. “These traits are developed through the deliberate nurturing of individuals to mature effectively in their institutions. Critical to leadership development is the appropriate selection, training, and mentoring of present and future health leaders.”

The project leaders noted that health systems in sub-Saharan Africa have many needs and challenges, not the least of which is the need to bolster leadership capacity for strategic efforts.

“While Master of Public Health degrees have been integral in building up mid-level management,” they said, “specialized professional training for high-level health system leaders is still lacking.”

In contrast to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree provides professional training designed to prepare individuals for evidence-based public health leadership, including practice-oriented research and field-based roles.

The DrPH-HLA will aim to develop health professionals and practice leaders who will support public health development in Africa through a world-class, highly specialized program that is tailored to the experiences, needs, concerns, and aspirations of strategic health leaders based in Africa.

Drs. Hobbs and Agypepong and another colleague will make a presentation to the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, to be held in Cape Town later this month. They will introduce information about the DrPH-HLA and share results from a large survey of African health leaders, which will help refine the ways the UNC program will be adapted for use in Africa.