Impactful Change Requires a Paradigm Shift for Global Health Professionals

An Interview with Postdoctoral Associate, Lanre Omotayo

NYHQ2014-3629, UNICEF Ethiopia Nesbitt, 2014, Unmodified

By Jessica Scates

Published November 1, 2017

Dr. Lanre Omotayo, postdoctoral associate for the Community for Global Health Equity, has come to see that improving public health requires more than improvements in medicine; this perspective results not from an epiphany, but a step-by-step pursuit of his core convictions.

“As someone who grew up and lived in sub-Saharan Africa, I’ve been a consumer of health services and seen firsthand what public health looks like. I believe fundamentally that the way to make changes and avoid public health catastrophes is to go beyond improving medical care, but to really think about multi-sectoral interventions.”
Dr. Lanre Omotayo, Postdoctoral Associate
Community for Global Health Equity

Dr. Omotayo grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. As a child, he had many eclectic interests; he studied the writings of important African authors, contemplated a degree in engineering, and rose to semi-professional soccer status. Although these contributed to his identity, he aimed to resolve big problems facing people in his community, problems related to their health and wellbeing. So, to improve health and health care for Nigerians, Dr. Omotayo earned a medical degree from the Lagos State University College of Medicine.

Although patient care can be extremely rewarding, Dr. Omotayo quickly realized his individual impact as a doctor would not create the type of population-level impact he aimed to achieve. He was accepted to study public health at Harvard, where he translated his medical training into a skillset that could make a large-scale difference. At Harvard, he partnered with a professor in epidemiology on a study to understand practices that increase emergence and distribution of new infectious diseases around the world. This experience reinforced, for him, the importance of a multi-sectoral perspective to combatting infectious diseases and led him to pursue more research training in a PhD program at Cornell.

At Cornell, he was placed in charge of a project in Kenya, where he worked for three years designing, implementing, and evaluating a program to improve maternal and child health. Working with a diverse team of government officials, researchers from the University of Nairobi, program managers from Amref Health Africa, officials from the Micronutrient Initiative and investigators at Cornell University, Dr. Omotayo’ s study aimed to understand how to integrate prevention practices into existing primary care platforms in western Kenya.

Currently, Dr. Omotayo works with Dr. Pavani Ram, UB epidemiology, on studies that help to understand the effect of diarrhea treatment on reducing mortality among children. He believes his diverse skillset and experiences with professionals from many different backgrounds increase his ability to impact population health, particularly maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Omotayo firmly believes that professionals must experience a paradigm shift to create impactful change in their communities. When politicians campaign for votes, architects build to code and physicians treat their patients’ symptoms, important global health problems and solutions fall through the gaps. Innovation occurs when open-minded problem solvers from different professional and cultural perspectives work together. When physicians, architects, and politicians begin to work as a team, a deeper understanding of a problem comes to light; they begin to realize the impact of the collective whole.

Dr. Omotayo has found kinship in the Community for Global Health Equity. “I think we can do more by inviting other professionals to the table. We need even more cross-sectoral perspectives: behavioral/cultural ideologies that would bring such fresh perspectives to solving some of the important problems facing our world today.”