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You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. Being a changemaker, for me, is striving to make someone’s life better than it was before and to do that out of pure love and compassion for fellow human beings, with no strings attached

Solomon Ayehu

Solomon Ayehu’s journey has been one of continuous growth and learning, fueled by a passion for making a difference in the healthcare space. He served as a general practitioner at regional and federal hospitals across Ethiopia, including on the frontlines at Eka Kotebe General Hospital, the primary COVID-19 treatment center in Ethiopia. Driven by a desire to champion equitable healthcare access and implement sustainable development solutions in low- and middle-income countries, he returned to school to study international development and global health policy.

Man with big smile, suit jacket, green trees behind
Solomon Ayehu MIDP'24

“My focus is on bridging the gap between global health and development, with an emphasis on strengthening health systems though innovative health reforms in health financing, human resources for health development and management, digital health, and the implementation of highly effective healthcare interventions in resource-limited regions,” Solomon says.

During his time as a Duke Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) fellow, Solomon took advantage of opportunities to work with faculty mentors and expand his research portfolio.

For his MIDP master’s project, Solomon explored the drivers of physicians’ migrations from Ethiopia to the U.S. using a mixed-method study. “I aspire that my study will inform further research projects on the topic and provide valuable policy insights to the responsible government body in the country, the Ethiopia Ministry of Health, to help it effectively manage the country’s human resources for health (HRH),” he says.

Outside of class and researching, Solomon was involved with the Sanford African Policy Group, served as the vice president of the Duke Africa Graduate and Professional Students Association, and volunteered as a program assistant for the Duke Summer Institute for Reconciliation and as a driver for Root Causes’ Fresh Produce Program, delivering fresh produce to Durham community members in need.

“I am driven by my personal motto: You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” Solomon shares. “Being a changemaker, for me, is striving to make someone’s life better than it was before and to do that out of pure love and compassion for fellow human beings, with no strings attached. As I continue to navigate my path in the field of global health, I am determined to be a catalyst for positive change, leveraging my skills and expertise to create a brighter, healthier future for all.”

Solomon Ayehu's Photo Highlights

Q&A with Solomon Ayehu

What is a course that stood out to you?

I meticulously tailored my courses during my MIDP study at Duke and I enjoyed every single one of them. But three courses stand out the most.

First, “Global Value Chain Analysis” with Prof. Gary Gereffi was not only a vital course in international and economic development, but also one that provided me with practical knowledge and skills for undertaking global value chain analysis. More significantly, learning it from one of the originators of the global value chain framework - Prof. Gereffi himself - was a great honor that will stand the test of time.

Secondly, “Health Economics” with Prof. Kate Bundorf was an outstanding course that not only debunked the complex health system and health insurance marketplace of the United States, but also immersed me with extensive and critical health economics research in a lively seminar-like course design.

students on a step in Washington Dc, inside a building
For the course Management of Health System & Policy with Prof. Robert Saunders, the class spent a week in Washington, DC.

Last, but not certainly least, is “Management of Health System & Policy” with Prof. Robert Saunders, which provided a lively and excellent practical teaching experience of the management of health systems and policy in the U.S. Through the course’s “Week-In-DC,” I was immersed in a wonderful experience of hearing and learning directly from policymakers and several other critical stakeholders within the U.S. health system. A visit to the Capitol on the last day of the Week-In-DC program was monumental. Through the talk we had with N.C. senator Tom Tillis’ staffer at his office, I was able to learn about the health policymaking process and nuances and the essential tasks that have been happening in N.C.’s health policy space.

What did you learn from your master’s project experience?

I have learned that, first, the overall trend in the number of doctors in Ethiopia and their emigration to the U.S. has been steadily increasing. Second, the distribution of doctors in Ethiopia has constantly been inequitable, ranging from 15 doctors serving a 100,000 population in a very small urban region to less than 1 doctor per 100,000 population in a remote and rural part of Ethiopia.

Perhaps, the most interesting findings are from the qualitative interviews: the drive for financial freedom and the meager wage for doctors in the country, even from the sub-Saharan African countries’ standard; the passion for career and professional advancement; the frustrations with the country’s health systems, evidenced by burnout from workload, lack of basic diagnostic and therapeutic resources and fatigue with hospital administrations; and the new, unfortunate phenomenon of physicians’ unemployment crisis in the country.

Most importantly, all of the interviewed participants reflected their aspiration to directly or indirectly get involved and contribute to making the country’s healthcare system better. This aspiration brings forth a critical policy insight for the Ethiopian MOH to highly consider engaging its expatriate human capital in its health policy dialogue.

Moreover, I have enhanced my research skills throughout the process. I sharpened my qualitative research skills, conducting and analyzing in-depth interviews (IDIs) and utilizing NVIVO software for qualitative study analysis. I also gained hands-on experience of the research IRB process and vital academic and research lessons and guidance from my research advisor, Prof. Manoj Mohanan, the distinguished Creed C. Black Professor of Public Policy and an applied microeconomist, focusing on health and development economics. It was a privilege and honor to have his guidance and mentorship throughout my master’s project. 

What’s your favorite part of being an MIDP fellow?

Besides gaining a reputable knowledge and skills in policy analysis, my favorite part of being a Duke MIDP fellow is being among the most caring and supportive faculty and staff at Sanford.

What is your advice for incoming MIDP fellows?

Savor every moment of your stay at Sanford and get actively involved in all the academic and social activities and events at Sanford and the greater Duke to seize every opportunity that comes knocking at your door. Build and nurture your network at Duke.

The Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program is a self-designed, interdisciplinary degree that equips mid-career professionals from around the world with the analytical tools and technical expertise necessary to become global leaders in sustainable development efforts. It is administered by the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), which is based in the Sanford School of Public Policy. DCID promotes sustainable development through its research, education and engagement with students, policymakers, practitioners, development partners, civilsociety,and the private sector. 


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