Women’s resilience in global health leadership

3 minute read

As I embarked on a journey to pursue an MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership, I faced significant adversity in my personal life. I had already deferred a year to support my team on the ground while we dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic, but I was now faced with my own burnout. As a frontline worker and leader, witnessing the burnout among healthcare workers, the fatalities and how the pandemic decimated already fragile healthcare systems around the world left me feeling vulnerable and purposeless; the emptiness only intensified as I confronted the same challenge in my life.

As we have navigated through the healthcare leadership modules, I have realized the significant sacrifices and adversity the women in my cohort have faced, women who now sit at the table of the world’s most prestigious (and magical) institution alongside other strong leaders. The compassion, curiosity and humility they embrace is vital in a time when the complexity of global challenges requires a different approach. As the world faces disruption, the need for agile system leaders who can build resilience in a system fraught with wicked problems will be vital to navigating the complexity and structural violence that continues to permeate global systems.

The journeys of these remarkable women, who have transcended hurdles and challenges and built resilience and empathy, are echoed in their approach and reflections throughout the program. It is arduous not to get imposter syndrome as you hear of their achievements and successes. Still, I am grateful to have the opportunity to engage and learn from these empathic leaders who have chosen to use their adversity to empower them to lead change. In their home countries, they are thoughtful, disruptive leaders who push the boundaries and challenge biases, yet there is vulnerability, modesty and kindness when we come together. The activities, social events, group work and hugs (and the famous Oxford Granola) have harvested a strong bond and a sense of security, well-being and resilience.

Despite the misfortune many of the women have faced or are facing, the MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership team has allowed them to have a seat at a table. The team has deliberately and successfully ensured these adversities have opened prospects and provided a new perspective on global health, a successful experiment only a world-renowned institution can accomplish.

Now, I cannot leave this without mentioning our wonderful male classmates. They have given us space, embraced us as equal leaders, respected our autonomy, shown compassion and celebrated our successes. We thank you for that!

Many suggested I defer this opportunity again or forfeit it with the challenges ahead of me. But the program has rekindled by passion and sense of purpose, and while the burnout is still potent, my studies offered an escape from the day-to-day trenches of frontline healthcare. It is sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but these incredible, strong women have shown me the possibilities and given me courage and hope.

I have always taught my daughter to 'worry less about fitting into a glass slipper and more about shattering glass ceilings'. I am proud and honored to be part of a resilient group of women doing just that globally.

Oxford MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership