Victor Tabbush

September 08, 2009

UCLA Anderson Adjunct Professor Victor Tabbush has been emotionally connected to Africa since he lived there during the ‘70s. "The continent really got into my blood," said Tabbush. "I love being in Africa. I just feel a tremendous connection with the continent and the people when I'm there. It vitalizes me."

For the past three years, Tabbush has visited all parts of the continent as part of UCLA Anderson's Management Development Institute (MDI), and as an advisor to students participating in the school's Applied Management Research (AMR) program.

MDI is a one-week program designed to enhance the management skills of HIV/AIDS service providers and leaders of organizations in Africa devoted to treating and supporting people with the disease. Funded by Johnson & Johnson, the training is delivered by UCLA Anderson faculty, as well as instructors from African universities.

Held annually in Kenya and Ghana, more than 350 people from 22 countries have graduated from MDI since 2006. This year, the program will expand to the University of Capetown in South Africa. "We have an existing exchange program with this world class university," said Tabbush, "and their business school will be our implementing partner. They will provide facilities, logistical support and faculty."

According to Tabbush, HIV/AIDS is a massive problem across Africa - but is especially acute in the south, in states such as South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho."We're talking about 40 percent of the adult population of Africa," said Tabbush."At the end of the day, it's more than a health problem - it's a social problem. Parents die and leave orphans who become street urchins or are just discarded by their grandparents. These orphans place a tremendous burden on grandparents. They thought they were going to be looked after by their children, but now they're looking after their children's children."

But Tabbush believes that MDI is having an impact. The program's six-part curriculum imparts participants with a coherent and relevant framework for delivering capacity building. A special feature of the program is the Community Healthcare Improvement Project (CHIP) which asks participants to analyzie their organization, identify critical issues and problems, and then developestrategic options for resolving.

Being able to work so closely with peers and faculty allows participants to make significant improvements in their organizations. After attending MDI in 2006, leaders of the Coptic Hope Center for Infectious Diseases in Nairobi, Kenya opened three new clinics in Kenya and Zambia. The Center's four locations now treat 450 patients daily. And there are similar MDI success stories across Africa.

"I have to say that the Price Center has been instrumental in supporting this work," said Tabbush. The Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies provides administrative support for the MDI program. Alfred E. Osborne, founder of the Price Center, teaches in the MDI Program and is a vigorous supporter of the school's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

In addition to his efforts with MDI, Tabbush has worked with students on a number of healthcare-related. AMR projects in Africa. Most recently, he advised a student team in Mozambique who developed a business plan for a nonprofit organization that would bring U.S. medical students to the country to provide specialized services in clinics. "Hopefully, students returning from an experience like this will be inspired to go into community medicine and work in underserved areas back home in the United States," said Tabbush.

In the coming year, Tabbush will work with a student team analyzing operations in an academic medical center in Ghana. According to Tabbush, the operating theater is tremendously stressed with demand far exceeding the number of procedures they can perform. There are also terrible bottlenecks, delays and unnecessary casualties. "Johnson & Johnson has been very interested in operating theater efficiency," said Tabbush. "They asked me to take a look at that -- and so I brought in a field study team. We're going to assess the process flow, make recommendations and hope to develop a curriculum for operating theater managers that can be taught all over Africa."

"What we're bringing to these organizations is the capacity to manage their organizations more effectively," said Tabbush. "This makes a significant difference in the quality, quantity and nature of services they are able to provide. That's the theme that connects these projects."

"I've seen major changes in these African organizations," continued Tabbush. "The participants in the programs are writing things down. They're grasping onto ideas that they can implement for the benefit of the people they serve. This immediate impact is very gratifying."

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