Former first daughter Barbara Bush's new non-profit, Global Health Corps, was inspired by a 2003 trip that she took with her parents to five African countries. The Bush family was in Africa at the time promoting the Bush administration's anti-AIDS initiative.
A visit to a health clinic for people battling HIV opened Barbara Bush's eyes to how she might make a difference in the health field.
"I think that was the first time that – I was not pre-med; I hadn't studied health – that was the first time that I thought well maybe, what am I doing? Maybe I should focus on this," the Bush daughter said in an interview Tuesday on CNN's American Morning. "And I can. You really can work in the health field even if you're not a doctor or a nurse."
Bush decided to take that premise and use it as the foundation of Global Health Corps, a non-profit that recruits young professionals who are age 30 or younger to work for a year in health organizations.
"They're not doctors or nurses. They're filling any needs that the organizations have. And what we've found is all of our partners want people with technology skills. They want program management skills. They want monitoring and evaluation support. They just want general program support – which are skills that tons of people have. They just don't know they can use them in the health field."
For example, Bush said one participant in the non-profit's first crop of fellows is a former Google employee with a background in product management who is now working on health management information systems in Tanzania.
The inaugural class consists of 22 fellows selected from a field of 1200 applicants. And Bush plans to expand to 40 fellows next year and 500 fellows five years from now.
The former first daughter said that her decision to focus the initiative on the 30-and-under set was not meant as any kind of disrespect for older, more seasoned professionals.
"We wanted to build the next generation of leaders in health," Bush told CNN's John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.
Bush credits her parents for both inspiring her to care about health issues and helping her set up Global Health Corps.
"Really, they've given me advice on everything," she said.
Specifically, Bush says that her father told her not to hesitate when she became interested in developing a way to get young professionals involved in the health care field.
"I was nervous just starting this in the first place and my dad said, 'You know, you're going to really regret it if you don't do it. So just do it. There's nothing to lose. It's a good idea.'"