Improving child health delivery worldwide

Drs. Lovejoy and Niescierenko are committed to global health efforts

Boston Children’s Hospital is a dynamic and compassionate community of caregivers, many of whom have worked independently to provide quality care to children and families all over the world. With the formalization of the Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2014, we have expanded our global reach exponentially. Then and now, our mission has always been the same: to improve child health delivery worldwide by sharing the expertise and training of our world class pediatric team.

As the world is increasingly globalized — with commerce, economies, and international travel progressively linking us — it is now more important than ever to focus on global health. We support faculty and staff who work everywhere from the U.S. to Laos, from Tanzania to Nepal; ensuring the innovative and quality care of Boston Children’s is felt globally.

Then: Spotlight on Dr. Charles Janeway

Charles Janeway, M.D., physician-in-chief at Boston Children’s from 1946 to 1974, was one of the first doctors to be systematically involved in global health. In his biography, Pediatrician to the World’s Children, Janeway is said to have believed that “not only he, but the Children’s Hospital, had responsibilities far beyond the limits of Metropolitan Boston.” He spearheaded the growth and development of teaching hospitals in both Iran and Cameroon, teaching Pediatrics to thousands of physicians in the developing world in an innovative way that was far before its time — focusing on strengthening systems and teaching versus mission-based work.

Dr. Janeway lecturing in Tokyo as part of Boston Children's global health efforts
Janeway in Tokyo, 1965

Excerpt from “Pediatrician to the World’s Children,” by Robert J. Haggerty and Frederick H. Lovejoy Jr.: “The salient feature [of Janeway’s work] was an education program to prepare personnel to meet the health needs of a largely rural population. It was designed to train physicians for that purpose rather than to copy the medical schools of the industrialized world. It was to achieve its overall goal through a threefold institutional building effort entailing support in teaching, direct patient care and research directed toward maternal and child health, with a large dose of preventative medicine added in. Implementation of the Harvard-sponsored plan envisioned a teaching team composed of a pediatrician project director, an obstetrician, a midwife and a pediatric health nurse and other personnel from the West, working in collaboration with a counterpart team from the Cameroons, with an investment in institutional continuity envisioned. The aim was to initiate a program in maternal and child health with gradual withdrawal of foreign personnel as planned as the program progressed and local Cameroonian professionals could take over.”

Now: The work of Dr. Michelle Niescierenko

Janeway’s novel approach to Global Health is the gold standard today and core to the work being done by our clinicians. Director of the Global Health Program, Michelle Niescierenko, M.D., MPH, is a practitioner of sustainable global health. In addition to her role as an emergency medicine physician, she has been involved in projects all over the world.

Michelle Niescierenko does global health work in Liberia
Niescierenko in Liberia

Recently, Niescierenko committed herself to the rebuilding the post-ebola health system of Liberia, a place she has worked for the past seven years. Liberia had the largest Ebola death toll, killing 4,806 people including many doctors and nurses and devastating the health system. Through a 20-million-dollar CDC grant, Niescierenko’s team has undertaken work to regain the public’s trust and improve the quality of the health system. She recently received a grant from the World Bank and Liberian Ministry of Health to build a pediatrician training program in the Liberian College of Physicians and Surgeons, prioritizing sustainability and the use of local pediatricians to build pediatric capacity in the country.

Niescierenko’s focus on sustainability and strengthening the health system from within (instead of simply bringing outside experts who will eventually leave) echoes the work of Janeway, bringing this pioneering work full-circle. She established the Global Health Program in 2014 to centralize the important work of Boston Children’s faculty and staff who now work in over 39 countries worldwide.

Learn more about the Boston Children’s Global Health Program.

About the blogger: Therese Fleisher, MPH is the Pediatric Partnership for Liberia Workforce Development Project Coordinator at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was previously a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa.