By Sara Drussell
While the Gator Nation is everywhere, Gator alumni also pride themselves on making the world a better place. Two University of Florida alumni from the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Nursing are using their backgrounds to assist health care organizations in Africa become profitable and sustainable.
Founded in 2016 by Lori Spivey and Rodney G.B. Clements, the Florida Africa Foundation was created to improve access to health care and eliminate poverty by advising, consulting and providing financial support to small health care businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Spivey and Clements met in 1995 as UF students and kept in contact throughout their careers. The Florida Africa Foundation combines their expertise and backgrounds to create sustainable change in African countries. Spivey earned a bachelor’s degree from UF’s former department of communication sciences and disorders (which merged with PHHP’s department of communicative disorders to form the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences), followed by an M.B.A. from Harvard. Clements earned his bachelor’s in nursing from the UF College of Nursing and has practiced as a registered infusion nurse.
Clements said that their mission is to improve lives globally and assist in establishing sustainable businesses in Africa. He also wanted to explore the world and see different cultures while having fun along the way. One memorable experience was visiting a clinic in Zambia that treats women with HIV. The women danced and sang as a way to uplift each other and invited Spivey and Clements to join them.
Spivey, who serves on PHHP’s development advisory board and on UF’s Alumni Association board of directors, previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Zambia and as a principal with Boston Consulting Group, where she specialized in health care, consumer products and emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She uses her background in business and global health to assist Florida Africa Foundation’s partners with setting budgets, creating reasonable goals and understanding how to become a profitable enterprise.
Clements’ background in nursing allows him to assess available medical equipment and help educate health care teams on best practices for their settings.
When researching partners for the Florida Africa Foundation, Spivey said they look for entrepreneurs who can “hustle” and have already made positive impacts in their communities. Most of the groups they find are through networking and word-of-mouth, but the key characteristic that makes groups stand out is the impact that they are able to make with few resources. One example is a young doctor who leads Vision Care Givers International, based in Uyo, Nigeria.
“At age 29, Dr. Lucky Aziken had already provided eye care to thousands of Nigerians who had no access,” Spivey said, “He was operating on $800 a month.”
Aziken had three brick-and-mortar clinics and one mobile eye clinic when Spivey and Clements met him. Spivey and Clements were impressed by Aziken’s story, so they found a donor interested in supporting his practice. With the donor’s investment, Aziken was able to expand to open his fourth and fifth clinics. His goal is to increase access to eye care within Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
Clements believes the organization they have had the largest impact on is the Eseriani Clinic in Arusha, Tanzania. Funding from the Florida Africa Foundation has helped the organization to see thousands of patients they may not have otherwise been able to treat.
“The pictures they send us bring a smile and a tear to my eyes,” said Clements.
The Florida Africa Foundation has helped seven groups thus far, and Spivey and Clement are always searching for more organizations they can assist. They self-fund their trips to Africa because they want every dollar raised and donated for the foundation to go directly to a project on the ground.
“We want to go where we can have a unique and differentiated impact,” Spivey said.
Visit https://floridaafrica.org/ for more information.