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Health & Wellness + In the World

One Brady on the Field, One in the Field

Quarterback’s sister brings help to Uganda

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School of Public Health master’s student Nancy Brady in Uganda. Photo courtesy of Nancy Brady

He is the famous Brady, the Patriots quarterback used to the limelight after leading his team to three Super Bowls (albeit not this year). She is the older sister, unaccustomed to attention, but quietly making her mark in global health.

For Nancy Brady, a sales and marketing representative for pharmaceutical company Pfizer, a six-month fellowship at the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) in Kampala, Uganda, turned out to be a life-changing experience.

This fall, her experience in Africa propelled Brady (SPH’12) on two paths: she enrolled in the BU School of Public Health as an MPH candidate, and she organized a fundraiser in Boston last month that netted a whopping $250,000 for the institute.

“I’ve been to Africa before, and I’ve done some fundraisers, but spending half a year in Uganda really had an impact on me,” Brady says. “When I came back, I just felt like I wanted to do more. It’s one of the reasons I went back to school. My passion for global health was always there, but I wanted more knowledge. The issues are so incredibly complex.”

Brady’s fellowship in Uganda came about when she applied to participate in Pfizer’s social responsibility program, which gives employees a chance to work for nongovernmental agencies, or NGOs, serving at-risk communities. The fellowship brought her into contact with doctors, nurses, and villagers battling global diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Infectious Disease Institute, established in 2004 with support from the Accordia Global Health Foundation, is a Ugandan-run training and research center that works to improve disease prevention and treatment by expanding the health care workforce and capacity in Uganda and the region.

While in Uganda, Brady worked in the IDI communications and training program, interviewing health care workers who had been trained at the institute and evaluating a midlevel HIV training program for nurses. The fellowship took her into villages, hospitals and schools—an experience that she says made her aware that the challenge of addressing disease is not just supplying medicines to remote areas, but ensuring that there are trained health care providers to educate and care for the people who live there.

“So much of global health is capacity-building,” she says. “That’s what the Accordia Global Health Foundation and subsequently the IDI is all about.”

On one of her trips upcountry, Walter Schlech, a doctor at the Institute, took her to the remote village Tabiro, near Mpigi, where she visited an elementary school founded during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Tabiro Primary School now has 500 students, about a quarter of them orphans.

At the same time, Brady’s famous sibling, who was recovering from knee surgery in the United States, had been approached to help out the One Laptop per Child program, which supplies computers around the world. He mentioned Uganda as an area needing computers, and Nancy’s work there. The two had traveled to Uganda on a 2007 trip organized by the African advocacy organization Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA), cofounded by U2’s Bono. The two Bradys worked together to get a shipment of laptops into Ugandan classrooms.

Last month, Tom Brady again stepped up to help when Nancy hosted a preholiday fundraiser for the Accordia Foundation at Boston’s L’Espalier Restaurant. He and his wife, fashion model Gisele Bündchen, were among the more than 150 attendees helping to raise $250,000 for the foundation, as well as $22,000 for a computer trainer to assist with the laptops in Tabiro.

The fundraiser was a success not just financially, Nancy Brady says, but because it brought together people from different walks of life—athletes, academics, scientists, and activists—who share a desire to “empower Africa in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases.”

At 34, the youngest of Tom’s three older sisters says she and her brother have always backed each other professionally and philanthropically. She moved to Boston from their native California eight years ago to be closer to him.

“He has always been supportive of me, the same way I’m supportive of him,” she says. “I realize that a lot of my opportunities have come because of the family I was born into. But we also share a commitment to look beyond our family and be engaged in the world.”

Majoring in social welfare at UC-Berkeley, Nancy worked with the homeless and impoverished in San Francisco early in her career. While at Pfizer, her interest in social-justice issues has led her to make several philanthropic visits to Africa, including a trip to Ghana and Sierra Leone this past year with a women’s delegation organized by a Washington, D.C., group.

Going back to school to earn a master’s in public health was a longtime goal. SPH’s International Health Program, which focuses on empowering communities to address their own health issues, seemed a perfect fit for her interest in improving health care capacity, she says.

Like many other SPH students, Brady juggles class work, her job, and other obligations, but has kept a low profile. “I want people to know me as me—not because of who my sibling is,” she says. “I’m here to learn—it’s part of who I am, wanting to learn and grow and evolve.”

“I come from the industry side of global health, but I do think industry plays a major role, in terms of being an impetus for change, conveying a message, tackling some of the major issues in Africa and other parts of the world,” she says. “I want to be part of that change.”

Lisa Chedekel can be reached at chedekel@bu.edu.

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