Q&A with Dr. David Barash

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 31, 2014
Dr. David Barash
GE Healthcare is well-known in the industry but not everyone knows about GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of GE. Dr. David Barash, chief medical officer and executive director of the global health portfolio at GE Foundation, spoke with DOTmed News about the biggest global health care issues and what the foundation is doing to try to combat them.

DOTmed: Can you tell me a little about the GE Foundation and what work you do?

DB: The GE Foundation was started about 90 years ago and was predominately focused on volunteerism and matching gifts. About 10 years ago, we began the Africa Project and the Foundation became much more programmatically focused.

Because we are a medical equipment manufacturer, our original idea was to attempt to have a positive impact through equipment donations to Africa. However, we quickly realized that just donating equipment or systems wouldn't make a significant difference.

We also realized early on that simply donating equipment may actually have an unintended negative impact, because unless you trained people to maintain and fix equipment in order to use it properly, it would wind up taking up valuable space and become a frustration to healthcare providers on the ground.

So, we began to develop programs that were much more geared towards capacity building and system strengthening. We now have a robust portfolio that trains health care workers in various disciplines, such as maintaining equipment or delivering anesthesia, enabling them to build or strengthen their health care system.

Over the last seven years, we have trained 200 biomedical technicians in seven countries. We've set up centers of excellence within schools in each of those countries; through "train the trainer" programs in Honduras and Rwanda there are now two self-sustaining schools.

Currently we are in the process of exiting those countries and allowing those programs run on a self-sustainable basis. We've also started this training program in Nigeria and are likely to launch it in other countries in Africa in the next few months.

Another significant part of Foundation programming both in the U.S. and globally is our employee engagement initiatives. GE has 300,000 employees globally, and we try to leverage our culture of volunteerism to have them participate in providing skill-based volunteering in many of our venues.

In the US, GE volunteers help teach grantees new systems and processes, and engage them in learning how to use new technology. We also use this opportunity to help them develop their leadership skills - something GE is known for globally. From a global perspective, we use skill-based volunteering to help establish relationships at the ministry and hospital level in developing nations.

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