Five Questions For Misti McDowell, I-TECH Ethiopia Country Director

Editor’s Note: This is a first in an occasional series featuring I-TECH staff.

Misti McDowell joined I-TECH Ethiopia in February, assuming leadership of I-TECH’s largest country program. In Ethiopia, I-TECH’s work is primarily in the Amhara, Afar, and Tigray regions, which account for nearly 50% of the national HIV burden. I-TECH is focused on strengthening the country’s public health systems, including hospitals and health centers, laboratories, public universities and medical schools. Prior to joining I-TECH,  McDowell worked for five years in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for FHI360 where she oversaw projects on HIV/AIDS, nutrition, family planning, TB, hospital accreditation, and neglected tropical diseases.

Misti McDowellYou just became the Country Director for I-TECH Ethiopia. What has been the biggest surprise in your first few weeks at I-TECH?
I wouldn’t say that it is a surprise, but I was very impressed with the quality of work that I-TECH has accomplished over the years in Ethiopia, especially around all the infrastructural upgrades to hospitals and universities, the capacity building and training to providers delivering quality HIV care, treatment to patients, and strengthening universities to deliver comprehensive pre-service and in-service training.

What will your primary focus be over the next 18 months? 
My primary focus will be to diversify funds, build a stronger team, and improve morale. I think with a stronger team we can accomplish more than we already have and continue to make a greater impact in the health care system of Ethiopia.

Tell us about a leader who inspires you. 
Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to make a different, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

You have brought your family to Ethiopia, including your husband and two young girls. What do your girls like best about their new life in Addis? 
I think what my girls love best about Addis is the mountains and that they can go hiking and rock climbing.

What’s the most interesting challenge you think I-TECH’s programs are tackling in Ethiopia? 
The transition of programs to the government with a quick timeline.  I think the government of Ethiopia really wants to have everything transitioned; however with the planned timeline, it will be difficult to transition everything and maintain quality.  There are many systems in the government that need to be streamlined to ensure sustainability and quality of the programs that are now being supported by NGOs and to change those systems will take a long time.