The Visionary: Agnes Binagwaho

Read the full story, published by The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science.

Agnes Binagwaho, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine, began her medical career providing pediatric care in the low-income neighborhoods of Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. She had done her medical training in Belgium and France, but her focus was intensely local: on emergency pediatrics, neonatology, and the treatment of HIV/AIDS in Kigali’s youngest and most vulnerable population.

“I like to say that global health starts where you put your feet,” says Professor Agnes Binagwaho. (Photo by Stephanie Novak)

"In global health, you can’t start by thinking only about making the big difference at the country level," she said years later, after she’d been appointed as Rwanda’s Minister of Health and her work had become known throughout the international public health community. “We make a difference for one child. One family. I like to say that global health starts where you put your feet.”

Binagwaho sees no conflict between the demands of her pediatric practice, her research, and her work in public policy. In addition to her affiliation with the Geisel School of Medicine, she serves on numerous international boards and task forces and is a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. In 2011, she initiated a novel series of Twitter discussions called “Minister Mondays,” in which she engages in conversations about topics ranging from family planning to the need for lower-cost drugs to the role governments should play in their countries’ health care systems. (She tweets in English, French, and Kinyarwanda, the three official languages of Rwanda, and has 10,000 followers.)

“I don’t try to balance the different aspects,” she says. “I see everything as the same thing.”