Dignitas International is pleased to announce that Heather Johnston has joined as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.
Heather joins the organization with more than 20 years of experience in international development, most recently as Director of Programs at Canadian Feed the Children (CFTC). In this capacity since 2012, Heather oversaw the design and implementation of projects addressing health, education, food security and climate change, and led efforts to build capacity with local partners across six country programs in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, Bolivia and Canada.
When asked what drew her to this role, Heather responded: “Dignitas has an outstanding reputation for its commitment to employing research evidence in its medical programs and policy work to effectively strengthen public health care systems. I am thrilled to join the organization at a time when it is expanding these efforts.”
Heather has a strong background in managing health care and education in resource-limited contexts. Prior to her work with CFTC, Heather was a Country Director at Marie Stopes International in Mali from 2008 to 2011. She launched the organization’s first program in Francophone West Africa: a results-driven national program delivering sexual and reproductive health services to low-income women and couples. Heather also previously served as Oxfam’s Regional Gender Equitable Education Program Manager in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mali and Niger.
“I believe strongly in public health care systems – along with education, it is a foundational pillar of development in any country. Dignitas is working hand in hand with the Malawi Ministry of Health to create a system that sustainably responds to the health needs of the nation,” says Heather.
With the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa, Heather also notes a renewed global interest in strengthening public health care systems and sees this as a key strategic opportunity for the organization.
“With our decade of success in tackling HIV in Malawi, I believe that Dignitas has a lot to offer in terms of defining the way forward from a broader perspective,“ says Heather.
In addition to holding a Masters in Management and Development of Cooperative Businesses from Université de Sherbrooke, Heather completed a Bachelor of Arts in Peace & Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto.
This year, Dignitas will be starting a quarterly blog series entitled From the Desk of the CEO, where Heather will connect with supporters about our work and share insights to frequently asked questions. In the meantime, you can follow Heather on Twitter @he_johnston.