Spotlight on Dr. Youssouf Keita: Muso’s Director of Training

Growing up in a family of travelling government employees, Muso’s Director of Training, Dr. Youssouf Keïta, is accustomed to adapting to new environments across Mali. But even he wasn’t totally prepared for the harsh living conditions in rural Tori, Muso’s newest project site. Youssouf oversaw recruitment and training of new CHWs and supervisors for the site, spending nearly three months in Tori this spring.

“The entire village only had 19 chairs,” he laughs, now sitting comfortably in Muso’s Bamako headquarters. “How can I train 55 people with only 19 chairs?” Needless to say, Youssouf’s ingenuity served him well in the rural district that experiences some of Mali’s lowest documented access to healthcare and child survival statistics.

“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a doctor,” he says, in between calls from the field and drop-ins to his office. Growing up in Gao, located on Mali’s northern-most bend of the Niger River, Youssouf’s family hosted a group of young doctors visiting from Bamako. “I watched them very closely, because during meals they ate with spoons instead of their right hand,” which is traditional in Mali across cultural and economic lines. “I had to ask, ‘why do you eat with spoons?’” The doctors then described to Youssouf how they treat sick patients, and handle bacteria and blood all day, saving people’s lives. “From then on,” with a smile on his face, “I knew I wanted to be a doctor.”

After medical school, Youssouf quickly found work with the Centre d’Expertise et de Recherche en Télémedicine et e-Santé (CERTES), consulting for various organizations that use mHealth technologies to collect and analyze field data. It was through this job that Youssouf first met the Muso team. After three years with CERTES he was hired as Muso’s first Director of Community Health Workers, managing the group of Supervisors responsible for Muso’s growing cadre of CHWs. With Muso’s expansion into rural Mali, Youssouf transitioned into his current position, Director of Training.

For nearly three months in Tori, Youssouf slept next to his team of trainers—a group of doctors from the clinic in Bankass—on the floor of an empty school classroom that was converted into a bustling training center, chock full of new CHW recruits during the day. The lack of chairs and limited facilities he encountered were only a few of the logistical hurdles difficult to anticipate while planning the pilot phase of Muso’s Bankass project from Bamako, 400 miles away. Yet the solutions Youssouf and his team designed are now the important blueprints Muso will use in preparation for the critical next phase of the project; scaling up to seven additional rural sites later this year, and bringing on at least 160 more CHWs.

Youssouf says he’s proud to be able to contribute to the development of his country through his work with Muso, which partners closely with the Malian Ministry of Health. Then, during a rare lull in his high-traffic Bamako office, Youssouf confides that ever since graduating medical school, he too, eats with a spoon.

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