Harvard Summer Program in Kisumu, Kenya

Innovating for health transformation in Africa

Faculty: Thomas F. Burke, Roy Ahn, Ann L. Prestipino, Brett D. Nelson, Melody Eckardt, and Thomas Mote

Students in the Harvard Summer Program in Kisumu, Kenya, explore diverse approaches for using innovations and technologies to foster transformative and sustainable healthcare improvements in Africa. Closely mentored student teams design, develop, and test their own innovations.

African governments are searching for ways to harness the power of science, technology, and innovation to foster transformation in healthcare delivery. Their strategies are being significantly influenced by the forces of globalization. International development agencies are similarly rethinking their approaches in light of the opportunities provided by rapid advances in science and technology.

Understanding the greatest challenges and opportunities for change will lay the foundation upon which the students will explore diverse approaches for integrating and adopting innovations and new technologies into a healthcare delivery system. The six-week intensive program in western Kenya, will use an interdisciplinary approach and emphasizes the importance of teamwork in the design and implementation of innovations and technologies. It will demonstrate to the students that all innovations, as beneficial as they may be, must be integrated locally to be successful.

Watch a video where students in the Kisumu program discuss the innovations in healthcare they worked on.

Course of study

AAAS S-181s Study Abroad in Kisumu, Kenya: Innovating for Health Transformations in Africa (32791)

Thomas F. Burke
Brett D. Nelson
Ann L. Prestipino
Thomas Mote
Roy Ahn
Melody J. Eckardt
(8 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

The aim of this summer program is to equip students with an in-depth understanding of approaches to tackling intractable healthcare challenges through innovations and technologies. The course is divided into four broad sections.

It begins with an introduction to the language, history, and culture of Kenya and the east-African community (one week).

This is followed by an in-depth exploration of what it means to take a chosen identified healthcare problem and to innovate in order to develop and deploy a sustainable and scalable solution. We initially develop an understanding of the greatest healthcare challenges confronting the African continent; try case-based approaches to problem characterization, solution development, and refinement; and ultimately test delivery models for healthcare improvement. In these cases we review policy and economic implications (two weeks).

Then, students are grouped into teams of four and closely mentored to spend three weeks in the field working through the strategic components of a chosen healthcare innovation and/or technology. Emphasis is on thoroughly understanding a chosen healthcare problem, how a viable hypothesis and strategy for a solution is generated, and then how a plan for implementation and testing is rigorously deployed and integrated (three weeks).

The last two weeks of the summer program include one week of preparing a final paper and a group presentation, which are presented in the final week.

In addition to developing analytical skills, students are expected to strengthen their capacity to work in teams by integrating knowledge from diverse sources. Training in the natural or engineering sciences is not a requirement for the course. Students are expected to leverage their previous experiences and explore new avenues related to their career aspirations.

The course includes guided discussions, lectures, guest speakers, field work, assigned readings, and presentations by students. Modest adjustments in the syllabus are introduced to accommodate specialized interests by students and to take advantage of topical issues as they arise.

Prerequisites: none. The program is designed to accommodate students from all fields interested in the role of innovations and technologies to transform healthcare delivery in Africa.

Course credit

See Study Abroad Credit Information.


Thomas F. Burke, MD, FACEP, FRSM, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Chief, Division of Global Health and Human Rights, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Roy Ahn, ScD, Instructor in Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Associate Director, Division of Global Health and Human Rights, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Ann L. Prestipino, MPH, Senior Vice President for Surgical, Anaesthesia, Emergency Medicine, and Clinical Business Development, Massachusetts General Hospital

Brett D. Nelson, MD, MPH, DTM&H, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, and Director of Pediatric and Newborn Programs, Division of Global Health and Human Rights, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Melody J. Eckardt, MD, MPH, FACOG, Director of Maternal Health, Division of Global Health and Human Rights, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Thomas Mote, MD, Adjunct Professor, Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement, Butler University


Before applying, review the Admission and Policies and FAQs pages.

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Students must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student in good academic standing to apply.

The application materials, outlined below, are due January 29, 2015:

  • A completed online application that includes:
    • A $50 nonrefundable application fee
    • A statement of interest in the program, including information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite)
    • Transcripts (student record accepted for Harvard students)

    Program directors may ask for interviews.

    Students are notified of admission decisions by mid-February.


    There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The cost of the program is $7,750 and includes the following:

    • Tuition
    • Room and some meals
    • Excursions (including meals when appropriate)

    In addition to the program fee, students are responsible for:

    • A health insurance fee (waived if students have US insurance that provides coverage outside the United States)
    • Transportation to and from Kenya
    • The cost of passports and visas (if the latter is needed)
    • Any immunizations

    Suggested budget

    See a sample budget for estimated expenses.

    How to pay and funding options

    See Payment and Funding for payment deadlines, deposit amounts, and more information, including funding options for Harvard College students.


    A secure and comfortable housing compound.

    Additional information

    Emily DeRedon, ederedon@partners.org.

    Learn more about the program in the video and hear from students about their experiences in Kenya.

    Students with disabilities

    Students should contact the disability services coordinator as soon as possible. See Students with Disabilities for more information.