Mentorship – An Essential Factor to Catalyze Contraceptive Technology Innovations
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
Family planning programming ties in very closely with the concept of choice. People must be able to freely choose the contraceptive method (s) that meets their needs and circumstances. This is where contraceptive technology innovation comes into play. We must use the opportunity presented by technological advancements to innovate newer contraceptive methods to fulfill unmet needs keeping in mind the various barriers that affect the use of contraception. However, coming from a developing country like Tanzania, I know that “science” is not the only determining factor in overcoming unmet need. We must also consider the various policy environments and contexts that impact contraceptive access, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
The curiosity to understand these elements is what led me to apply, earlier this year, to the Emerging Leaders in Contraceptive Technology Innovation (CTI) program facilitated by the CTI Exchange. My aim was to be paired with a mentor who was able to share their experience regarding the nuances described above and to engage with fellow young leaders active in the reproductive health space and specifically working on some aspect of contraceptive innovation. Having completed the mentorship program, I must say, I have gained much more than I had expected.
Through the program I was paired with my mentor, Mark Barone, Deputy Director of Family Planning at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who not only shared his own experiences through the program but also connected me to other experts in the field to learn more about the necessary steps and advocacy required for the development and introduction of new contraceptive technologies in countries around the world. This program was very well structured and supported by an excellent team from FHI 360. Through Emerging Leaders in CTI, we participated in individual sessions with our mentors, that were supported by discussion guides, and structured thematic group sessions where we got an opportunity to interact with other mentors and mentees as well and discuss broader topics of relevance.
The “icing on the cake” was the opportunity for all mentors and mentees, provided by the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to attend the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium where we participated in the Innovations in Non-Hormonal Contraceptives Research & Development track to learn about advances in this space and interact with various market actors working towards the development of contraceptive innovations.
This mentorship program provided us access to the most cutting-edge leaders working in the development of innovative contraceptive technologies. The mentors listened to our various questions about professional growth within this space and offered guidance so we can together contribute to this important aspect of reproductive health and well-being. I strongly recommend this program to other young health professionals and look forward to engaging further with this new family.
Author Bio: Farhan Yusuf is a pharmacist working in Tanzania with experience spanning across the public, private and non-profit sectors. His experience includes carrying out different roles related to Health Commodity Logistics, Pharmaceutical Supply Chains and Public Private Partnerships for health in support of various projects/programs across different health areas including Family Planning. These roles have included technical and managerial leadership, monitoring & evaluation, program/project management, advocacy, and governance.