Oct. 24, 2023

UCalgary celebrates new agreement to advance collaboration with university in Tanzania

Global health partnership gets boost after delivering mutually beneficial impact

Support for maternal and newborn health in northwest Tanzania that has touched nearly a million people and saved lives. Training and guiding a new generation of leaders to advance global health innovation.

These are examples of impact from a partnership between UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and the Catholic University of Health and Applied Sciences (CUHAS) in Mwanza, Tanzania. These mutually beneficial successes in promoting health, medical education and research in Tanzania and Canada have led to the renewal of the CUHAS and UCalgary partnership agreement for the next decade.

“What has been accomplished speaks to the impact of a long-term, respectful partnership,” says Dr. Dianne Mosher, MD, associate dean of the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office at the CSM. “These collaborations provide opportunities for both of us in terms of training our students in Tanzania and inviting students to come here.”

Mosher adds: “It’s about reciprocity and what we learn from each other.”

The CUHAS-UCalgary partnership was initiated by Dr. Benedikt Hallgrimsson, PhD, founding director of the CSM’s Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) program, and the vice-provost of CUHAS at the time, Dr. Cassian Magori, MD, PhD. Early collaborative activities led to the first formal memorandum of understanding in 2006, and since then CUHAS and UCalgary have jointly developed a range of global health education, research and health system-strengthening initiatives.

The renewed partnership agreement expands on the success of projects such as Mama Na Mtoto, a large-scale, district-led initiative to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in rural Tanzania. Building on similar programming carried out in Uganda, Mama Na Mtoto had aimed to reduce maternal, child and neonatal mortality rates in two districts of the Mwanza region.

Over four years, the initiative reached nearly one million people, resulted in a 37 per cent increase in essential newborn care, significantly improved labour and delivery service, and saved lives. Along with improved delivery of health services to newborns and the wider community, major health facility upgrades were completed and a network of more than 1,600 community health workers were trained to promote health practices and increase the use of maternal, newborn, and child health services in the region.


CUHAS vice-chancellor Paschalis Rugarabamu and CSM dean Todd Anderson.

New generation of global health leaders

The CUHAS-UCalgary collaboration has also helped to advance global health innovation by training a new generation of health leaders in Tanzania, some who have benefited from a doctoral education completed at UCalgary through a cotutelle, or joint university enrolment. The PhD cotutelle mentorship program is co-led by Dr. Jennifer Hatfield, PhD’01, past associate dean, global health and international partnerships, and Dr. Deborah Dewey, PhD, a professor in the departments of Paediatrics and Community Health Sciences at the CSM.

​​​​​​Dr. Jeremiah Seni, MD, PhD’18, the director of postgraduate studies at CUHAS, has seen an overarching impact from training of eight CUHAS staff at the PhD level and more in progress under the cotutelle program through the Tom Feasby Global Health Scholarship and other related scholarships.

“The doctoral training between CUHAS and UCalgary did not only provide technical skills in various medical and health-related fields but has generated global health leaders who are now championing institutional, national and regional health agendas,” Seni says.

“In fact, out of the eight PhD scholars from the collaboration, six are currently holding top managerial positions at CUHAS ranging from heads of departments, directors, dean of the School of Medicine and a deputy vice-chancellor of academics, research and consultancy.”

Seni himself is an example. A Feasby Scholarship recipient who now serves in multiple health leadership roles, as head of antimicrobial resistance surveillance and co-lead on the COVID-19 emergency preparedness and response at the Bugando Medical Center, he is called upon as a global health expert.

The reciprocal nature of the partnership has enabled mutual benefits for both sides, Seni says, for scholars, and also for students in exchange programming who are co-supervised by experts from the two universities. The partners have jointly produced more than 70 scientific publications, technical guidelines and policy briefs.

Field school

Maternal Health Clinic at field school in Ngorongoro Conservation area, Tanzania.

Foundational initiatives

The Master of Public Health (MPH) program was a flagship initiative that solidified the partnership. Launched in 2007 under the leadership of Drs. Mange Manyama, PhD, and Hatfield, the two-year master’s program is now fully administered by CUHAS faculty. Curriculum had been adapted and designed at UCalgary with many UCalgary faculty as the initial course instructors. It later expanded to include instructors from CUHAS before fully transitioning instruction over to CUHAS faculty.

“The model of joint capacity development was a partnership model with heavy investment of our faculty in co-creating curriculum, co-teaching and transitioning leadership of the entire program to CUHAS,” says Hatfield.

There are now more than 150 MPH graduates who have been placed in leadership roles within health districts, government and non-government organizations in Tanzania.

The Joint One Health Field School originally based in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania was another foundational initiative of the partnership. A collaboration between CUHAS and UCalgary’s BHSc program and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the program brought students and staff to rural Tanzania for unique educational and research opportunities from 2008 to 2019.

“CUHAS negotiated diligently to make this field school possible and were absolutely essential for the functioning and success of the program,” says Hatfield, who co-led the student field school with Drs. Frank Van der Meer, PhD, and Karin Orsel, PhD.

“The initial partnership model was for total collaboration, and we had an opportunity to learn so much from our Tanzanian colleagues who supervised our UCalgary undergraduate and graduate students.”

Legacy of commitment to global health

The International Institute for Medical Education and Leadership program has been remarkable in expanding undergraduate and graduate medical education at the two universities, Seni says. Similarly, the Kolabo Psychiatry linkage which aims to improve the psychiatry and mental health teaching at CUHAS and UCalgary is an equally critical aspect of the partnership.

The collaboration has been an opportunity for many faculty members from across UCalgary to become actively engaged in education, research and community programming abroad. Hatfield says UCalgary and CSM senior leadership have shown a commitment to creating the environment for faculty to participate in international work and she looks forward to the collaboration continuing with colleagues at CUHAS.

CSM Dean Dr. Todd Anderson says the relationship between CUHAS and Calgary is special.

“CUHAS continues to expand the training opportunities it delivers and has become increasingly influential in medical education programming,” Anderson says. “What we always wanted to do was to see how both sides could benefit.

“The leaders at CUHAS are dedicated and skilled clinicians who are running their programs impressively. We are delighted to see how both sides have grown and we’d like to see how we can continue to learn from each other.”

Within its global health partnerships, the CSM continues to focus on reciprocal activities determined by the needs of each partner, by inviting international colleagues and students to Canada and enabling UCalgary students and faculty to participate in global health initiatives abroad.

The Mama Na Mtoto initiative in Tanzania is led collaboratively by Dr. Jenn Brenner, MD, assistant dean, global health with the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), and Dr. Dismas Matovelo, MD, head of obstetrics and gynecology and associate director of postgraduate studies at the Catholic University of Health and Applied Sciences (CUHAS).

Benedikt Hallgrimsson is the deputy director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the head of the CSM’s Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy.

The CUHAS Master of Public Health program was initially co-led by Drs. Jennifer Hatfield and Sospatro Ngallaba, MD, past dean, School of Public Health at CUHAS, with ongoing support from Dr. Eveline Konje, PhD, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at CUHAS and Dr. Elias Nyanza, PhD, director of business development at CUHAS. Currently, the program is co-led by Dr. Humphrey Mazigo, PhD, dean, School of Public Health, and Dr. Anthony Kapesa, MPH program co-ordinator.

The Joint One Health Field School is co-led by Hatfield and Dr. Frank Van der Meer, PhD, a professor of global health and ifectious diseases with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Karin Orsel, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases, also with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The International Institute for Medical Education and Leadership program is co-led by Dr. Heather Baxter, MD, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, and Dr. Gwendolyn Hollaar, MD, an associate professor in the departments of Surgery and Community Health Sciences.

The Kolabo Psychiatry linkage is co-led by Drs. Kimberly Williams, MD’14, and Rita Watterson, MD’13, professors in the CSM’s Department of Psychiatry and Dr. Matiko Mwita, PhD, the assistant head of psychiatry at CUHAS.