This month, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, Barbara Brese – an independent healthcare consultant who joined our board of trustees in 2018 – explains why she’s excited about our work, and how it’s helping women globally.




Q: Tell us why you became a pharmacist and where has that led you.

A: My mother says that when I was a child, I was always looking to help others and play nurses and doctors. I knew medicine wasn’t for me – my older sister trained as a doctor and I couldn’t stand the sight of blood – but pharmacy spoke to my personality. I started as a junior NHS pharmacist in hospitals, and later became deputy director and chief pharmacist for NHS North East London CSU. During the swine flu pandemic of 2009, we helped to set up the system that is being used currently. That meant redesigning services and clinical work to support GPs. I enjoyed being part of that development, and other service redesign. I was one of the first people to teach pharmacists how to give flu vaccinations – which have increased our access to healthcare. As my career has progressed, I have found myself working in various places to develop or redesign healthcare systems to be more innovative, efficient and sustainable. I am currently working with Kearney in the Middle East on such a project.


Q: How did you hear about IHP, and what made you decide to join us?

A: I’d moved to work at one of the UK’s top five biopharmaceutical companies (MSD) and came across International Health Partners in a professional capacity. What struck me about the charity is that it’s unique in the way it offers services. It really wants to reach out to anybody, anywhere, who has a need. IHP doesn’t constrain itself: it takes hope to the places where it is needed. I admire the way it works in difficult places. At times, when you see the impact at first hand, I’ve struggled to control the tears of joy.


Q: Where have you seen our impact, personally?

A: I’m originally from Ghana, and most of my family is there, so I go back a lot. In June 2019, I decided to visit one of IHP’s projects: the King’s Village, a 50-acre settlement in the Tamale region. Seeing our work on the ground was really powerful for me. I could see the value of the medicines, but I also felt very excited by what was happening there, and it made my skin tingle. King’s Village was set up by a married couple, Ben and Marion, who began with just a couple of buildings in 2003. They now have public health, social care and educational services, serving many surrounding villages and their facilities now deliver up to 100 babies a month, and offer most forms of surgery. By taking small steps in faith toward their vision, what Ben and Marion have created has brought so much fruit to so many people – helped by partnering with IHP for their medicines.

Barbara stands with the Kings Village team

Barbara (second from left) with the Kings Village team during her visit to their facility in Ghana last year


Q: What could IHP do more of (or do better)?

A: We are meeting immediate needs, but I am really interested in prevention measures as a way of providing sustainable services. In the areas we are working in, a lot of illness is preventable, and perhaps IHP could play more of a role here. We can give people information to prevent the recurrence of illness or reduce incidence, for example. We can’t fix large issues by ourselves, but we can think about how we work with our partners on the ground, and we can chip away at these things and help people to take ownership.


Q: As a woman working in healthcare, who inspires you?

A: For International Women’s Day we often hear high-profile women being celebrated. I admire the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, because she leads with feminine values and isn’t afraid to, but I think we should also celebrate and appreciate women who make a difference in small ways. There’s an African proverb that says ‘If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation’. In health, the implications of our actions for other people are very important, as we’re seeing with COVID-19. For women especially, it’s also important to say that healthcare is about taking care of yourself, then helping others.



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