Why We Do What We Do: Erika Linnander

Erika Linnander, associate director at GHLI, realized her interest in health when she volunteered for the Peace Corps from 2001 to 2003. Even though she went on this trip as an educational volunteer, her experience exposed her to how health issues could spill over and create barriers for educational systems. “Students wanted to come and learn, but they were sick or were taking care of their families. It seemed like HIV wiped out education,” explained Erika.

During her two years as a volunteer in Malawi, Erika’s most vivid memory of that country’s health care system occurred when she was teaching at a secondary school campus. It was nighttime, and a young girl got sick. Erika brought her to the hospital and explained how committed the nurses were, but they couldn’t do anything because they didn’t have medicine. “You had good people working in a broken system,” she observed.

Erika heard about Betsy Bradley while finishing up her degree in public health and business at Johns Hopkins. A friend told her about Betsy and the Ethiopian Hospital Management Initiative program. Even though the program was in its first year, Erika was excited about its practical design and reached out to Betsy to see if there was a role for her with the program. But before Erika joined the GHLI team, she wanted to learn more about how hospitals work through an administrative fellowship with John Hopkins Medicine. Erika applied her knowledge from the fellowship to GHLI when she returned in 2009.

A part of Erika’s role at GHLI includes program development. She shared how watching a program start with a broad objective and then launch is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work. “It makes me excited, humble and mostly grateful for the opportunity that I can do meaningful work with and for good people.”

Amanda Sorrentino, GHLI Intern

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