Lillian Niwagaba, Ph.D., a higher education expert with experience in global health management, workforce and program development, and international service learning, has joined NYIT as director of the Center for Global Health.
Most recently, Niwagaba served as director of education programs in the Office of the Associate Dean for Global Health at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center. There, she planned, oversaw, and assessed undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate global health programs while also directing and teaching courses for international service learning and global health rotations.
Niwagaba earned her doctorate in Higher Education with a focus on comparative and international education from the University of North Texas. While pursuing her degree, she served as a graduate services assistant and research communication and information specialist at the university. Prior to that, she was special assistant to the chief development officer at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She holds an M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and earned a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
“I’m very passionate about global health,” says Niwagaba, who was born in Uganda and moved to Texas with her husband in 1983. “I want people to understand how medicine is practiced in different parts of the world.”
Defining global health as “a multidisciplinary area where medicine and public health converge,” Niwagaba noted that NYIT’s schools and colleges offer an opportunity to engage a variety of students in tackling health challenges around the world.
“When we look at diseases in low-resource environments, many are diseases of poverty, so you need economists,” she says. “For safe drinking water, you need engineers. With planning, you need business people and administrators. Global health pulls together all these disciplines to ensure that people have healthcare equity and access.”
The Center for Global Health is a collaboration between the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) and the School of Health Professions. Its interdisciplinary certificate program focuses on health policy, practice, and health challenges facing the world’s underserved populations. Students enrolled in the program take several courses, participate in global health field work in Ghana or Haiti, and conduct research during summer trips.
Niwagaba had the right combination of skills and expertise to lead the center, according to Vice President for Medical Affairs and Global Health Jerry Balentine, D.O.
“We were looking for someone who had educational experience as well as global health experience to help us further develop the existing programs and expand new ones,” said Balentine.
Niwagaba plans to grow the center’s activities on and off campus and build its reputation among students and experts. She hopes to bring professionals to campus to deliver monthly global health lectures and case studies for medical and health professions students. She will also look for ways to provide students with opportunities to showcase their global health knowledge to the NYIT community and to infuse more global health education into the NYITCOM curriculum.
“A lot of students want to practice global health, so I’d like to provide them with more courses, electives, activities, and opportunities for engagement in the field,” she says. Global health opportunities, she notes, do not necessarily need to take place far from home. “It could be local,” she says. “Getting students to volunteer with refugees or in underserved areas here in New York, they’ll understand people from different cultures and build their cultural competency.”
Niwagaba has published or presented research reports on topics such as higher education in Africa, community engagement and partnerships, alumni engagement, learning technology, and school leader training. She succeeds former Center for Global Health Director Edward Gotfried, who remains a member of the NYITCOM faculty.