Deogratias Niyizonkiza
Founder and CEO, Village HealthWorks
Born in:
Burundi

“We need to focus on saving lives and empowering communities. It’s about working together to make our world, a healthy world,” Deogratias Niyizonkiza recently said in a speech at Adventist University of Health Sciences. Niyizonkiza is the founder and CEO of Village Health Works, which serves over 200,000 impoverished people in Burundi. He escaped to the U.S. from Burundi during the country’s devastating decade-long civil war. “I would often wonder what I could do to help others if I could make it out alive, and those thoughts led me to one thing, healthcare,” Niyizonkiza said. He did not know English and was homeless after arriving in the U.S., but went on to graduate from Columbia University and Harvard University before finishing his medical education at Dartmouth Medical School. His extraordinary story is told in the “New York Times” best-selling book, “Strength in What Remains.” A frequent lecturer on global health, Niyizonkiza is the recipient of multiple awards, including the 2014 Wheaton College Otis Social Justice Award, the 2014 Dalai Lama Unsung Hero of Compassion Award, the 2013 People to People International's Eisenhower Medallion Award and the 2010 Women Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award. Updated 2018