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“We came together as strangers with little in common and faced a serious challenge. We supported each other, shared our personal stories and celebrated each other’s successes. We created a unique community in that week, bonded to a common purpose, helping patients.”

NJIA is a collaboration between Pepal, F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd, Mc Bride & Lucius, ICAP Tanzania and the Government of Tanzania to tackle the cervical cancer burden in the Kagera Region through leadership development. NJIA brings together Roche employees from across the world with Tanzanian healthcare workers and NGO staff to take part in an immersive leadership development program in Bukoba, the urban center of the Kagera Region. Participants apply their leadership learning to an important cause: the co-creation of innovative ideas to increase access to and awareness of cervical cancer prevention services.

Kagera is now ranked third in the country for meeting national cervical cancer targets on number of women screened. After 3 years, the NJIA program is evidently having a lasting impact on health outcomes.

In this blog post, we dig a little deeper into the corporate participant experience to understand why this shared value program is effective not only for cervical cancer prevention, but also for professional leadership development. We are delighted to share the personal insights of Francesca Paolone Lamb, PDR Business Analysis and Insights at Genentech Inc, San Francisco, who travelled to Bukoba in November 2018 to take part in the NJIA program.

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A Stranger with a Challenge

I travelled thousands of miles, over vast landscapes of oceans and mountains, from a predictable environment and a trusted support network to land in a world completely foreign to me:  Bukoba, Tanzania.  I was joined by 18 fellow Roche colleagues, only a few I had worked with before, and 20 Tanzanian health care professionals I had never met. I felt out-of-place and awkward. 

Our challenge was clear: we were to form teams, visit 7 districts in the Kagera region, learn the hurdles to effective cervical cancer prevention, treatment, and comprehensive HPV vaccination, and come up with 6 proposals which aimed to reduce barriers to care using only the resources available. We had just 1 week to accomplish this.

Fortunately, we had NJIA to guide us. “Njia” is the Kiswahili word for “the way”, and we literally had to find a way to quickly unite across cultures and language barriers to design innovative, and sustainable proposals.  Together, we formed Cohort 8 of the NJIA program. 

Prior to landing in Bukoba, a town in the Kagera region and the home base of the program, I had completed an assessment of my leadership skills.  This assessment collated extensive peer feedback, and was debriefed by an HR coach, to highlight my leadership challenge:  Taking action in the presence of little information or data.  In Bukoba, I had immediate opportunity to practice.

I was thrilled to be a part of NJIA as I am personally passionate about increasing access to health care, and I desperately wanted to make a difference for the women in Kagera.  True to my nature I absorbed as much data as I could, I asked many questions of my Tanzanian teammates, and of their peers.  By the end of the 4th day, with only 2 days left, I was frustrated and disappointed. The data didn’t make sense, and in some places it was even conflicting. Insights from the field visits also highlighted fundamental cultural hurdles, hurdles that could not be removed with a simple proposal. I could see no way to make a difference.   

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A Team with a Purpose

The program included Leadership Circles, where small groups gathered to discuss our leadership challenges and how we were addressing them throughout the week.  Listening to my colleagues share their insights, and sharing my challenges with them, helped me to uncover a deeper purpose to the week. 

Our facilitator stated it so clearly, “In the corporate world, we often speak about creating culture or changing culture by launching big, cross-organization initiatives.  Sometimes the most effective approach is to focus on a few people.”  I realized right then, the best way I could help the women of Tanzania was to focus on supporting my Tanzanian teammates.  By working with my team and supporting each other become better leaders, we would create a sustainable path to better health outcomes.

Once I oriented to this purpose, everything became much clearer.  We prepared a bilingual, 10-minute presentation of our proposal to the Kagera Regional Medical Officer, the District Medical Officers, leaders of our NGO partner, ICAP and the Ministry of Health.  With their endorsement and the support of Pepal, our team will work virtually over the next 6 months to implement our proposal.  

The Impact of a Shared Value

This program had a profound impact on me.  Yes, I learned how to get comfortable taking action with little information.  And yet, above and beyond, I experienced something greater: the power of ‘we’, the powerful impact of a Shared Purpose and Community.  We came together as strangers with little in common and faced a serious challenge.  We supported each other, shared our personal stories and celebrated each other’s successes.  We created a unique community in that week, bonded to a common purpose, helping patients.  What’s more, we are part of a legacy which builds on the successes of prior cohorts adding this to our own and continuing the path to a healthier life. 

Francesca Paolone Lamb

Francesca is passionate about public health and increasing patient access to care.  To that end, Francesca has dedicated her career to simplifying drug development and volunteering in global health efforts. 

With over 15 years of experience in academic and industry settings, Francesca has expertise in finance, program management and in clinical research.  She has led global teams to develop innovative solutions to complex problems always with an eye toward productivity and fostering an engaged work environment.  She is recognized for cultivating high-performing teams and enjoys mentoring young professionals.  

Francesca is currently the lead for PDR Business Analysis and Insights at Genentech, and a board member for Global Healing, a non-profit organization.  She has a BA in Spanish Language and studied Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She has a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology from the UCLA School of Public Health.

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