Meet Thomas Kisimbi, AMP Health Management Partner in Kenya

Thomas Kisimbi (far right) led AMP Health team members on a field visit in Kenya to see how the community health system operates firsthand. 

Thomas Kisimbi (far right) led AMP Health team members on a field visit in Kenya to see how the community health system operates firsthand. 

Kisimbi was born in Kenya and has been working with AMP Health for almost two years. We interviewed him to find out about his life before AMP Health, what brought him to this work, and what he does when he's not building strong health systems. 

What is your hometown? Mombasa, Kenya

Before joining AMP Health, what was the most unusual or interesting job you had? I was Country Director of CHAI in Malawi. I was able to navigate what was often a very complex political landscape, helping move forward critical and sensitive priorities of the Ministry of Health and the Office of the President and Cabinet, winning their confidence as well as that of development partners I worked with. I also managed to grow and diversify our portfolio of programs in Malawi from $1 million to $15 million within 3 years, driving large-scale transformative work across several countries. As Program Manager in Ethiopia, I managed a team of 20 mentors to transform hospital management across the country. Our work there brought forth a never before practiced CEO-management model for Ethiopian hospitals, and in partnership with the Yale School of Public Health, graduated the first cadre of management and public health-trained executives to help run those hospitals. In Rwanda, with a team of 30, we sought to transform a civil-war ravaged healthcare system to provide world-class integrated and comprehensive care through an ambitious analytically-driven planning, costing and fundraising effort that eventually saw, in addition to other private funds, helped raise $300 million through the Global Fund for HIV and Health Systems Strengthening.

What interested you in joining AMP Health? It was an opportunity to make governments work better. I was ten when I realized that my world was broken; my sense of stability shaken when my grandmother fell gravely ill. I rushed her to the nearest public hospital because it where I knew to take her and I was alone with her at home. I saw the conditions patients had to endure there. Later that day, my mother transferred her to a private facility using her employer-provided insurance – the difference in care was day and night! I resolved then I would become a doctor to eliminate this disparity.

Over the years, I evolved: what Africa needs is not necessarily more doctors (we need those), but I believe we need more problem-solvers. The Aspen Institute brings together individuals, organizations and resources that confront some of the most intractable problems facing humanity today and I wanted to be part of the solution.

What are 3 words you would use to describe Kenya? opportunity, beautiful, complex

What have been the most gratifying and challenging aspects of your work thus far? Ability to influence senior leaders within the ministry of health to invest more time, effort, and resources to community health.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Play rugby, go to the theatre, read management books, Netflix…and Cards Against Humanity!

People would be surprised if they knew… In high school, I was the 100 meters race champion. I hold the school record.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? In our line of work, I need to understand that we face a window of opportunity to make a huge impact on the lives of poor and sick people in many countries, and to work with governments as key partners to improve the healthcare of their people: when we delay, people die needlessly. I should therefore be driven by a central Call to Action: patients first, government as our #1 partner, acting with urgency, passion, and sacrifice.