Strengthening Health Systems: HPC Fellow Akshatha Kiran

(Photo by Rebecca E. Rollins / Partners In Health)

Akshatha Kiran is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with Partners In Health. At Partners in Health, Akshatha worked on assisting with research surrounding tuberculosis treatment delivery, policy analysis, and advocacy. Read on to learn about her placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

Trained in the tenets of servant leadership and service learning, I sought to apply my public health background to health systems strengthening. Having previously worked in underserved areas within the United States and abroad, I understood that accessing care requires more than the availability of care in a neighborhood–it calls for empathy and open dialogue to ensure all individuals are supported in obtaining needed resources.

So, when presented with the opportunity to engage in a hands-on experience while pursuing my Masters of Public Health degree at the Yale School of Public Health, I wanted to learn at Partners In Health (PIH). Believing in the heart of PIH’s mission, I wanted PIH-ers to direct my first dive into the realms of health policy and guide my understanding of serving in partnership with patients. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from dedicated, compassionate and insightful colleagues who make up every branch of the organization. Over the course of my Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship placement at PIH, I worked on assisting with research surrounding tuberculosis treatment delivery; policy analysis; and advocacy.

Partners In Health is a global leader in health systems strengthening. To increase access to high-quality health care and provide a preferential option for the poor, PIH not only builds and bolsters health systems in settings of poverty, but stays in those communities to ensure their needs continue to be met, and even surpassed.

Through community empowerment, resource mobilization, and advocacy, PIH provides a broad spectrum of services to its patients, ranging from preventive care to oncology. Each year, PIH-trained clinicians and staff help patients realize their desired health outcomes at rates that at times outperform those in developed nations.

Despite the world often insisting that high-quality care cannot be given in developing nations, PIH dares to say otherwise. In Malawi, Rwanda, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Haiti, Mexico, Peru and Navajo Nation, PIH is changing the lives of patients and their communities and bringing the seemingly impossible to life.

At Partners In Health, I am fortunate to have been challenged to engage with projects in unfamiliar thematic areas. Through literature reviews focused on innovative tuberculosis screening and treatment delivery, I learned not only the technical knowledge necessary for clinical treatment, but also the cultural context within which care needs to be delivered. In analyzing high-level United Nations policy for universal health coverage, I observed the nuances of policy creation and the importance of accountable implementation to address community needs. In the true spirit of global health and teamwork, the individuals who worked alongside me taught me what it means to serve in partnership with our communities on a daily basis.

I believe health care must meet patient needs beyond clinic doors. To this end, I am continually inspired by PIH’s collective efforts to ensure that ‘taking care of our patients’ means more than handing out a prescription. Reading the stories of our patients whose lives were changed by PIH’s comprehensive approach to care, I feel remarkably lucky to have played some small role in supporting the realization of their desired outcomes.

The potential of patient advocacy has informed my experiences at Partners In Health. In all it does, PIH places patients and their communities first. Since its conception, PIH has been an avid advocate for underserved and marginalized communities. From the organization’s work alongside HIV/AIDS advocates to today’s focus on universal health coverage, advocacy plays a crucial—and irreplaceable—role in ensuring the policies we create have the intended effects.

Supporting PIH’s advocacy efforts developed my broad-scale perspective of health care. Assisting in the creation of policy briefs for policymakers during a lobby day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., I was inspired by the dedication of student supporters of PIH who traveled across the country to mobilize and speak with their leaders to push for better health care for all.

My time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has been monumental in my development and understanding of global health and care delivery. I am grateful for both the Hilton Prize Coalition and Partners In Health for their ongoing support and investment in me, and I am excited to experience the challenges and growth on the horizon. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working with Partners In Health following this experience as a research assistant and am looking forward to mobilizing resources, advocating for patients through policy, and pushing the status quo of health care for the poor.

(Photo caption: Masentebale Letima (far left) and other expectant mothers spend their final month of pregnancy at a maternal waiting home in Nkau, Lesotho)

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. The Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit, or contact Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Subscribe to the HPC Newsletter