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CAHI Fellows Program


Interview with Professor Andrea Prado

Andrea Prado is Associate Professor at INCAE Business School, specializing in organizational change and sustainable development. She earned her PhD in management and organizations from the Stern Business School at New York University. She also has a master’s degree in international economics from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. 

Several years ago, she became involved in various programs related to health.  As a result, at the time of CAHI’s formation and launch, she was the person most involved with the creation and development of the academic component of the CAHI Fellows Program. 

CAHI staff had the opportunity to talk with her during the second module of the 6th cycle of the CAHI Fellows Program, in her office at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. The interview follows below; it has been translated from Spanish and has been edited lightly for clarity:

Interviewer: Thank you Andrea for the opportunity to interview you. We’d like to begin by asking “How did you first become involved with CAHI?” Andrea: Through CAHI’s founder and chair of the board of directors, Mr. Robert Jeffe, who I first met in New York to hear about his vision. From that first contact, a relationship with the Dean of INCAE was established and we continued an extended dialogue that resulted in the first strategic activity. At that time, INCAE was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and we had a high-profile event in New York, in which we began to do outreach and develop the conversation which led to the creation of the CAHI Fellows Program. 

I was less than a year out of my PhD program, with all the energy necessary to get involved in this project, applying my experience in management, business models and sustainability. This has continued to be my contribution throughout the years, and in the process, I have learned a great deal about healthcare. 

Interviewer: What is your view of the evolution of the CAHI Fellows Program over the past five years? Andrea: There is no doubt things change, but we have always maintained the emphasis on management, resulting from consultations we conducted with various leaders in the region.  We asked them what capabilities were needed by the people who work in health to ensure their interventions are more effective. The answers we received led us to understand the need for tools in innovation, management and administration. 

For this reason, we have always insisted that CAHI focus on strengthening management skills, leadership of teams, administration of projects, budgets and strategic alliances as the core of the CAHI Fellows Program. 

One important element of the evolution of the program is that the CAHI Fellows brand is well-positioned in the region and has a great reputation. It is an honor to say that one is a CAHI Fellow, reinforced by the weight of what they have achieved in their individual projects, which have had significant impact, and that the effectiveness of their intervention continues to improve. 

Also, something very significant are new collaborations between CAHI Fellows. Most recently, I heard that a Fellow from the first generation has been working already with several CAHI Fellows of subsequent generations. This type of coordination is already being clearly seen in Panama, for example, and this is part of what we have wanted to achieve since the beginning.   

This has always been the vision, that CAHI’s contribution to Central America is the creation of a network of leaders who are generating positive change.  

Interviewer: What other element would you say has made CAHI such a unique initiative?  Andrea: CAHI wants to innovate and it is doing so. To innovate, you must open spaces to try new things and that can result in some things failing, which generates important lessons. CAHI has a high rate of success, very few have fallen short, but we know that the leaders who participate in the program face important challenges.  Sometimes, they lose their position in an organization in their country for political reasons or they must interrupt their project due to changes in context that are outside their control and they are unable to finish the program. 

CAHI has learned from this, the selection process reflects these experiences in that projects are selected to have the best chances of success and that those leaders demonstrate a great commitment and ability to manage their initiatives.  After five generations, the CAHI Fellows Program is well-recognized by the social security administrations in the different countries. 

Interviewer: How is the knowledge generated in the CAHI Fellows Network shared? Andrea: In addition to creating a network of leaders in Central America, CAHI also has the commitment to generate knowledge about practical interventions because it may be that a group of health leaders in Nicaragua are developing a highly successful initiative and there is an opportunity for another group from Guatemala to learn from this and exchange ideas, producing a knowledge exchange that increases the impact of the different interventions. 

We have documented some of these practices in case studies about CAHI Fellows’ projects, which are then used in classes with future Fellows and are registered in international libraries, such as at the Harvard Business School. This increases the impact of the program by generating knowledge of best practices, which extends beyond the CAHI Fellows Network.

Interviewer: How do you see the CAHI Fellows Network right now?  Andrea: After five years, we have 100 CAHI Fellows, so we have started to measure and identify the ways that the CAHI Fellows connect with each other. From INCAE, we are collaborating with CAHI and New York University to create a map of the connections between CAHI Fellows, beyond the relationships they created in the same generation. We have identified that they are connecting across country boundaries and between generations. The exchanges have taken the form of mentorship and of generating knowledge to share with their colleagues. Also, groups are consolidating within countries. Right now, we can say that the strongest networks are in Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala. 

We have also begun to study the profile of the CAHI Fellows who make the most connections, to be able to identify the essential characteristics for networking, and then be able to improve the selection process.  Through this process, for example, we have identified that the entrepreneurial profile is very likely to result in collaboration and connections within the network. 

Interviewer: What do you think about CAH’s vision for the future?  Andrea: I believe we should focus on strengthening the network, on the connections that will grow into specific projects and generate change. We have a group of leaders working on their specific initiatives, with profiles that indicate they will continue to have important positions or generate significant influence in the health sector. I think that what we need is to coordinate efforts and develop strategies in collaboration with the members of the network, to have influence on the health agenda in the different countries in the region. I believe that is where CAHI should grow, recognizing that the academic program is now well established. 

Interviewer: Is there anything else you would like to add about the CAHI Fellows? Andrea: For me, all of them are important and I consider their projects like children, because of the help I was able to give to each one as it advanced. I have a special place for the Fellows, I keep in touch with them and I am always available to offer my support. I know all five generations and I have had the opportunity to develop a professional and even personal relationship with all of them, as we share a deep commitment to the region. As a central american, I appreciate them so much.

Finally, I want to reiterate my appreciation for the commitment of Robert Jeffe and the CAHI board of directors, because here at INCAE we have seen their commitment and the uncommon level of participation in the project, attending meetings, maintaining the dialogue, being critical when necessary. Their vision and leadership have been essential for the development of the program.

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