Dr. Robert Einterz: A Man with a Global Vision and a Heart for Collaborative Medicine

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September 2019

Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Laura Arick and submitted

How many times have you walked about town, along Main Street perhaps, and passed by a smart-looking person you don’t know, and you exchange a simple “Good day” or “Hello,” never knowing their story? Then by happenstance, your paths cross again, and you find out that the person is not just another local resident but is a highly educated and respected influencer/educator who is part of a global partnership that is literally improving the world, who happens to live in your town.

Dr. Robert Einterz

I know that I’ve crossed paths with local resident Dr. Robert (Bob) Einterz, around town, but I only just recently learned that—and that we share mutual acquaintances. And I had no previous knowledge of the incredible work Einterz and his colleagues do until recently. It is his work with Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) and his vision for global health that sparked my interest in this Hoosier native.

The Einterz family is an accomplished and well-respected name throughout the greater Indianapolis area and beyond. Bob Einterz, one of 13 children, resides in Zionsville with his wife, Lea Anne, three sons and three daughters. Einterz’s sense of community was nurtured by his family and throughout his Catholic upbringing.

Dr. Robert Einterz

When asked what inspired his calling to become the dedicated doctor that he’s become, to work (and sometimes reside) in underdeveloped countries, and where his sense of humanitarianism came from, he replied, “I have been asked this many times. You can either credit or blame my parents.”

It was this calling to help build stronger and healthier communities that led Einterz, his young wife and first born to live in Haiti for one year—1986–87—while he worked as a volunteer physician. Now imagine living in rural Haiti with a newborn, and your spouse not only agrees to stay married to you but also agrees to uproot his/her life and move to Kenya for a stint, a few years later, with more of your children in tow, so that you can codevelop a partnership between colleagues and countries for the betterment of global health. One could argue that Einterz’s wife—Lea Anne—should be eligible for canonization one day.

What many may not know is that Einterz co-founded the Indiana University-Moi University, Kenya partnership in 1989. He then served as the coordinator of the Department of Medicine at Moi University School of Medicine in 1990–91. Dr. Einterz was the co-director of the NIH-funded Moi Medical Informatics Fellowship and the principal investigator of numerous grants, including projects funded by the Gates Foundation, the MTCT-Plus Initiative and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Einterz is currently the Donald E. Brown Professor of Global Health and associate dean for global health at Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as director of the Indiana University Center for Global Health.

Creating a Mission and Developing AMPATH

In 1988, four incredibly dedicated doctors, Drs. Bob Einterz, Joe Mamlin, Charlie Kelley, and Dave Van Reken, went on a three-week world tour looking for an international partner for the Indiana University School of Medicine. The needs of Kenya and the vision of Moi University School of Medicine are what attracted the four doctors, along with their Kenyan counterparts, who were committed to developing the new Kenyan school’s curriculum around broad, community-based service.

Dr. Robert Einterz

In 1990, Einterz became the first in a three-decade string of Indiana University faculty physicians to work alongside Kenyan colleagues, care for Kenyan patients, conduct health research and teach American and Kenyan medical students. The success of the Indiana University and Moi University partnership inspired other North American universities to join AMPATH, which was officially formed in 2001.

Einterz shared that the AMPATH Consortium currently consists of 10 North American universities and health centers, led by Indiana University, and including Brown University, Duke University and Purdue University.

AMPATH has grown to become of Africa’s largest comprehensive health care systems as a result of the collaboration between American and Kenyan faculty, medical doctors, residents, students, scientists and volunteers.

AMPATH’S commitment to the HIV epidemic remains a priority, but it has also expanded into other areas of health care that include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health, maternal health, child health and other chronic diseases.

“AMPATH is an alliance of institutions—it is not a legal entity,” Einterz explained. “It is Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in this consortium of North American academic health sciences centers and universities led by Indiana University. It is a collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Health that affects the health care delivery system that now serves a population of about 8 million.”

Dr. Robert Einterz

While AMPATH has achieved remarkable success in its health care initiatives in Kenya, Einterz emphasized that the success is due to the Kenyan-led collaboration efforts and [AMPATH’S] measurable population health outcomes.

“We should measure the success of researched-based institutions like Moi University and Indiana University not just in terms of publications and profits but also in terms of population health outcomes,” Einterz said. “If we do the best [health] research in the world but that research is not translated back into improved population health, what have we accomplished?”

Einterz continued, “If you train the best and brightest medical students and they graduate into dysfunctional health systems and migrate to the cities or here to the U.S., then our mission, which is to serve the population, particularly those with low incomes, is not accomplished.”

Building on a Nearly Century-Old Foundation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the concept of universal health care (UHC) is not a new concept. Rather, UHC is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948, declaring health a fundamental human right, and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978. UHC cuts across all of the health-related sustainable development goals and brings hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest.

“Universal health coverage—that is the politically correct buzzword—is defined as ensuring that people have access to needed promotive preventive curatives and rebuild of health services of sufficient quality to be effective or also ensuring that people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services. Essentially, it’s an integrated health care delivery system and the finances to pay for it. Those two together—that’s universal health coverage.”

Einterz concluded, “We lead with care, and by leading with care, what I mean is that we get our hands dirty in the actual delivery of health services. And we do that in such a way that we create a health system that hosts research and hosts training, so that at the end of the day, no one of those three missions—care, research or training—are any more or any less important than the other two.”

For more information on AMPATH and to learn how to get involved as a student, resident or faculty member or if you are interested in saving lives and building health systems through your donation to the AMPATH Consortium lead institution, Indiana University, visit ampathkenya.org.

AMPATH’S Education Statistics

As of December 2018, 1,871 medical and pharmacy students and residents from North American universities had participated in the educational exchange

610 medical students and 461 residents from IU have rotated through Eldoret with most doing two‐month clinical rotations

340 Kenyan medical students hosted in North America for fifth‐year elective clinical rotations at consortium member institutions

45 Kenyan registrars (similar to North American residents) hosted in North America for two- to six-month clinical rotations