HRH FBO Leaders in Action Interview: Donna Kusemererwa
An interview series with HRH champions in developing countries produced by the HRH Global Resource Center.
Donna Kusemererwa is the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network, a Christian non-profit organization committed to the provision of quality pharmaceutical services as a means to achieving global goals and targets on health and access to medicines. She oversees the running of the secretariats, business development, financial management, policy development and coordination with members.
Can you briefly describe the path you took to becoming the executive director and how that background supports you as a human resources for health leader?
I’ve always been involved with human resources management. When I started working as a pharmacist after school in 1994, I was in charge of a small team, and I was responsible for the human resources aspect as well as the technical work. I worked as a pharmacist for only a few years. Then I went into management in 2000, and I’ve been responsible for human resources since then.
What do you see as the role of FBOs in human resources for health?
I see their biggest role in training and developing new capacity for human resources for health. I think FBOs have been very good at training nurses, laboratory staff, and even some pharmacy staff; and I think they should continue that role in developing additional health worker capacities.
What do you think others like those in ministries, in the pharmaceutical fields, the recipients of the work of the pharmacist, expect from the FBOs?
I think they expect FBOs to produce human resources that are more caring. They expect a lot from FBO-trained staff because they expect them to have a higher moral standard than those who are trained by the government. I think these expectations can be a bit too much when they expect these staff to work harder than other health workers. There is a perception that FBO facilities' people work very hard, that they are honest and generally more compassionate, so I think people expect everyone from the FBO sector to embody all these things.
How will you help improve FBO collaboration on human resources for health with the government and NGOs, specifically within the pharmaceutical community?
Because I’m not linked to any one government in my current position, I can continue to advocate for greater recognition of the role FBOs are playing in human resource development and for greater investment in pharmaceutical personnel. As a regional and international organization, we don’t have the opportunity to link directly with many governments, so I think our role is to raise the voices of churches in advocacy for human resources, particularly in pharmaceutical human resources.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I think that what I’ve enjoyed the most in my current job is the opportunity to influence human resources in a wide range of countries through our multi-country capacity building activities. We impact people across the region by providing training, tools, and materials they can use.
What is your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is the inability to finance long-term employment because we are (our secretariat) entirely donor funded. This type of funding is short-term, so we have trouble finding the money to offer secure employment for staff, which leads to challenges with staff retention. When large donor funded programs come in, people are tempted to go where the money is, so it is difficult to retain good quality staff.