Scholar Spotlight: Elvis Ndansi

October 24, 2019

Elvis Ndansi was a 2018-2019 Obama Foundation Scholar at Columbia University. Applications to join next year’s cohort are now open.

What have you been doing professionally since the program ended? How did the program affect that choice?

Elvis Ndansi/photo credit: Daniel Byers

Since I completed the Obama Foundation Scholars Program, I have been engaged with the process of setting up my organization, Unite For Health, as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the United States. When I came to the program in August 2018, I was thinking about how I would gain knowledge and skills and build a network that will help me scale up the work I am doing (providing access to healthcare in underserved communities in my country, Cameroon, by opening networks of micro-clinics). I came out of the program no longer thinking just about Cameroon alone, but thinking about Africa and the global impact of my organization and my work.  That is why I decided to register Unite For Health in the U.S. After my first board meeting, I feel fired up and even more optimistic about the vision we have for this organization.

What personal and professional connections did you make in the program that you would not have made otherwise?

This program has exposed me to some of the most amazing people in the world who I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet. Meeting President Obama and Mrs. Obama were unique moments for me. I will also say that if not for the program, I would not have connected with people who have become incredible board members of my organization. My colleagues in the Obama Foundation Scholars Program were a special gift and blessing. Not only were they a powerful source of inspiration, but the connection and bond we established among ourselves will be treasured for life. The people at Columbia University and the resources I benefited from are priceless. I also found an incredible place of worship at The Riverside Church where I became a full member. I joined the African fellowship group and the men’s class, and this has been a wonderful Christian community for me.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying to the program?

This is one of the rare life-transforming opportunities that everyone should consider being a part of. I would strongly recommend that anyone apply.

In five years, how do you think your career will evolve because of the program?

It took about 11 years for my organization to have an impact on the lives of 45,000 Cameroonians who benefitted from the healthcare offered in our micro-clinics. It was a great result for us considering the knowledge, skills and connections I had at the time. But after this program, I am certain that in five years’ time, Unite For Health will be able to impact no fewer than two million lives in Cameroon and other parts of Africa. This will be a major step in my career as a public health expert who is passionate about ensuring that those in underserved communities and remote villages have access and proximity to quality and affordable healthcare. I am also looking forward to taking up leadership and advisory roles to share my expertise with other organizations doing social impact work around the world.

What was your favorite experience during your time in New York, professionally?

I enjoyed all the courses I took during this program – especially our Monday Seminar course [with Columbia World Projects Deputy Directors Avril Haines and Ira Katznelson], which really helped shape my understanding of management and decision-making at a higher level of leadership. I also enjoyed all the conversations we had with leaders from different fields as they shared their personal experiences and answered questions from us to help us understand some of the complexities of their work.