In March 2000, at MESAB’s annual scholarship dinner in New York, the honoree was Nelson Mandela. Because of his role at that time in helping to negotiate a peace treaty to end the conflict between Rwanda and Burundi, Mandela could not attend. He was represented by South Africa’s first lady, Zanele Mbeki. In Mandela’s statement, delivered by Mrs. Mbeki, he thanked MESAB for its efforts, which he said had already resulted in “the transformation of the health care system with several thousand trained black health care workers.”
By the conclusion of MESAB’s activities in 2007, more than 10,000 physicians, nurses and other health professionals had received scholarship support for training and were providing health services in that nation.
Because of the critical importance of health for individuals and populations, the United States should continue and expand public and private efforts to strengthen health systems and increase the number of trained health professionals in developing countries.
As we honor the life of Mandela, we will remember the significant impact his life and vision have had on South Africa and the world. He will be missed. His vision inspires us to continue our efforts.
Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services and former president of the Morehouse College School of Medicine, is chairman of The Sullivan Alliance.