Lack of global health leadership, inequities in global healthcare delivery in Africa led to establishment of U-VOL Foundation — Faith Adole

Faith Adole, is the Chief Executive Officer of U-VOL Foundation Inc, an organisation focused on community health through global partnerships, is a social entrepreneur, nurse, medical volunteer and healthcare executive. In this interview by YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, she speaks on the activities of U-VOL Foundation, women empowerment, challenges and healthcare in Africa, among other issues.

Who is Faith Adole?

I would describe myself as a global healthcare advocate and a lifelong student that thrives in the promotion of others. As a social entrepreneur, I believe that there is always something or someone to learn from. No matter our walks of life, we can always learn from our history and from one another. Whatever business we do, we must do it with humanity in mind. Within the nursing profession, I’ve been given the opportunity to serve and also to lead at the bedside and beyond as well as to contribute to the global health sector in more ways than I could have imagined.

You have an international foundation, What is it about?

U-VOL Foundation is an acronym for United Vessels of Love Foundation. It is a registered international non-profit healthcare foundation transforming lives one community at a time through its mission to help meet the unmet healthcare and wellness needs of vulnerable societies through medical outreach, health education, WASH and other healthcare sustainability initiatives. The organisation emphasises love and care for all humanity through its global partnerships, its healthcare initiatives and through healthcare advocacy.

U-VOL’s vision is to build dynamic relationships and partnerships with people, communities, and organizations to create global healthcare and wellness initiatives to lessen existing healthcare disparities worldwide.

What led you into this?

I am a trained family nurse, healthcare executive and entrepreneur. Like many of my nursing colleagues, I started out my nursing career in the acute care setting hospital after my baccalaureate programme. Although I felt deeply connected to direct patient care, I returned to further my studies and became an advanced practice nurse because I cared deeply about patient advocacy and wanted to provide patients with a greater voice in healthcare. I soon developed my love for healthcare leadership once I understood the power and great influence nurses have on the advancement of the profession and on the actual healthcare treatment and delivery within our communities.

After several years of volunteering in local and international communities as a nurse, I realised I could no longer remain silent about the inequities surrounding global healthcare delivery, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. While serving as a nurse volunteer in Africa, I saw firsthand, like many others, the poor health/hygiene practices, preventable health illnesses and even deaths in many disadvantaged and rural societies. However, it was the lack of global health leadership by those who looked like me that motivated me to be a founder.

In 2015, I founded U-VOL Foundation, a non-profit healthcare foundation with a vision to build dynamic relationships and partnerships with people, communities, and organizations to create global healthcare and wellness initiatives to lessen existing healthcare disparities worldwide.

As a Nigerian-American, I understood the unique position I was in to leverage my knowledge, skills and network to make a difference in the African continent. I’m passionate about empowering African nurses and midwives to lead in global health settings.

You are big on empowerment, What led you into this?

During my undergraduate and graduate nursing studies, I don’t recall having a professor that looked like me. Once I got involved with global health at a young age, I ran into the same issue within my profession. I knew that a few existed but truthfully, I never saw them. I believe that representation matters. Representation is a form of empowerment. Once others see those similar to them in various leadership roles, it can serve as a source of inspiration. Beyond that, representation can help break negative stereotypes and misconceptions of people groups and furthermore, a diversified global leadership workforce can help bring guidance and solutions to global issues; it just makes sense. Simply put, I wanted to become what I thought was missing and wanted to inspire others to join me. Whether in health institutions, humanitarian field work, research, academia, advocacy and beyond, we need more nurses and midwives leading the charge in global health; especially diversified women of colour.

What challenges do you encounter as a woman trying to break frontiers?

Although there have been notable strides amongst women leaders that have come before me within my own African culture, I still encounter much surprise and sometimes skepticism about my leadership capabilities in global health, specifically because I am a relatively young woman and have a background in nursing instead of medicine. However, I have been able to overcome such challenges through persistence, open mindedness, patience and continued dialogue.

Which aspect of what you do is most enjoyable to you?

I enjoy everything. The fact that I get to act upon an impactful vision and help others never feels like work.

How do you balance all the things without getting overwhelmed?

Number one, flexibility and not taking yourself too seriously is key. As startup founders, some have the tendency to micromanage or overdue tasks without asking for help in desperation for their businesses to get off the ground. This can be detrimental and is not sustainable. Teamwork, communication and delegation are essential skills to master when leading any team. Through my work with U-VOL, managing teams remotely in different geographical locations, time zones and cultures has been challenging for me at times. However, I strive to build team members to utilize their full potentials, in roles that they feel they are best suited for and provide opportunities for the team to grow and improve collectively.

In addition, I find that the development and/or adoption of a practical organizational system within our teams help to streamline functions so that neither myself or my team members get overworked. Lastly, it’s important that I have fun, rest and spend time doing activities that I enjoy.

What inspires you?

I love helping others to grow and succeed. Seeing the great impact of likeminded individuals coming together to serve humanity is quite powerful.

What is your guiding principle?

In leadership, it is important to first show up courageously, then listen, stay committed, be patient with yourself and to always exhibit enthusiasm in the work you are passionate about. This leads to both influence and impact.


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