Alumni Week 2020

Lifting Lives

Public Health Solutions for Vulnerable Populations

Saturday, October 3

Lightning Talks: Alumni stories from the field

To round out our alumni week content, on Saturday October 3rd we’ll be sharing brief talks from fellow alumni on their responses to the coronavirus crisis and the importance of public health in a pandemic.


“Why Innovation Matters”
Jeffrey Blander, SM ’00, SM ’04, SD ’08


“Surgical Innovation Under Pressure”
Mary Brindle, MPH ’13


“Supporting data-driven COVID-19 response in eight countries”
Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, SM ’05, PhD ’08


“Right to Health and Right to Home: how COVID-19 Exacerbated the Broken US Housing System”
Ferahnaz Kahyaoglu, MD, MPH ’04


“The intersection of who I am and what I do”
Rasha Khoury, MPH ’13


“Girls Health Champions: Youth-led Health Education during the Pandemic”
Priya Shankar, MD, MPH ’17


“COVID-19: Providing Value with Values”
Dr. Swati Piramal, MBBS, MPH ‘92
Member, Harvard Chan Board of Dean’s Advisors.


About the speakers

Jeffrey Blander, SM ’00, SM ’04, SD ’08
“Why Innovation Matters”

Dr. Jeffrey Blander is a leapfrog innovator, strategic disruptor, and transformation specialist. Jeff believes in the transformative power of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors working together to reimagine sustainable financing for public health delivery systems as well as timely, efficient, and equitable access to lifesaving services.

Jeff has over 25 years of professional experience and brings a unique perspective in shaping new ideas to tackle our biggest global challenges. Experience includes: current position as the Chief Innovation Officer at the U.S. Department of State/PEPFAR supporting the global battle against two pandemics for HIV/AIDS and COVID-19; business executive; researcher; educator; foundation president; and most treasured role – “Dad”.

Mary Brindle, MPH ’13
“Surgical Innovation Under Pressure”

Mary Brindle is a pediatric surgeon in Calgary Alberta and health systems researcher. She completed her Undergraduate degree in Art at Yale University, received her MD from Dalhousie University in Halifax, completed her general surgery residency in Vancouver and her pediatric surgery residency in Toronto. She completed her MPH at TH Chan Harvard School of public health in 2013. She is currently the Director of the research arm of Alberta provincial surgical strategy and the Director of the Safe Surgery Safe Systems Program at Ariadne Labs, TH Chan Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Mary has has helped to lead efforts to address the impact of COVID on surgical systems both in her province and internationally and will speak about her experiences as a surgeon and a researcher.

Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, SM ’05, PhD ’08
“Supporting data-driven COVID-19 response in eight countries”

Bethany Hedt-Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Biostatistics at Harvard Chan School specializing in health systems research primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. She graduated with a PhD in Biostatistics from Harvard Chan in 2008 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the same department in 2010. Dr. Hedt-Gauthier leads a portfolio of work in global surgery, with a focus on access to safe and affordable cesarean sections in rural district hospitals in Rwanda. She also leads work on equity in global health partnerships, and specifically on the role of academic institutions in high income countries to address power imbalances in the field of global health.

Ferahnaz Kahyaoglu, MD, MPH ’04
“Right to Health and Right to Home: how COVID-19 Exacerbated the Broken US Housing System”

Ferahnaz Kahyaoglu, MD, MPH is a physician, public health specialist, writer, health reporter, instructor and researcher who is affiliated with Harvard University. She is an advocate for home to all and healthcare to all; and volunteering with community organizers to ensure tenants realize their collective power to change the laws and eradicate homelessness.

Dr. Kahyaoglu was born in Istanbul with Bosnian descent and received a MD from Cerrahpasa Medical School and a MPH from Harvard Chan School of Public Health. She received several fellowships and awards, and has many publications and certifications.

Rasha Khoury, MPH ’13
“The intersection of who I am and what I do”

Dr. Rasha Khoury is a Palestinian physician and public health activist born and raised in East Jerusalem. She moved to the US for medical training, graduated from Yale School of Medicine in 2008 and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF. She then pursued a fellowship in Global Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s and received her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2013. In 2014, fulfilling a lifelong dream, she joined MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and has since completed 6 surgical missions in Africa, Iraq and for more than a year in Afghanistan. Last year, she joined the board of directors at Doctors Without Borders to exercise participatory leadership, uplift and amplify the voices of patients and global staff in the MSF movement. Dr. Khoury currently works clinically in high-risk obstetrics in the Bronx, NY with a research focus on reducing severe maternal morbidity and mortality. She, while examining the burden of Covid 19 on expectant mothers, experienced exactly that, giving birth to her first child, Naseem during the apex of the quarantine in the epicenter of the pandemic, New York.

Priya Shankar, MD, MPH ’17
“Girls Health Champions: Youth-led Health Education during the Pandemic”

Dr. Priya Shankar is a pediatrician and the co-founder of Girls Health Champions (also known as Adolescent Health Champions). She has a long-standing passion for gender justice, intersectional feminism, health equity, and adolescent health which first was sparked during her own childhood and teenage years. Priya is a current Fogarty NIH fellow in Global Health and is a recent graduate of the University of California, San Francisco Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved (PLUS) residency program where she was a recipient of a UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Public Service and the UCSF’s Pediatrics Residency Grossman Award for her outstanding qualities as a clinician as well as her contributions to the community. Dr. Shankar completed her medical and public health training from Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where she co-founded Girls Health Champions. Priya was also a 2009-2010 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar to India where she studied maternal and child health policy. She has worked in the field of maternal, adolescent, and child health in the United States and India for over fifteen years as an educator and researcher.

Dr. Swati Piramal, MBBS, MPH ‘92
“COVID-19: Providing Value with Values”

Swati Piramal is Vice Chairperson and Whole-time Director of Piramal Enterprises. She also serves as a member of the Prestigious Harvard Board of Overseers and Dean’s Advisor to Harvard Business School and Public Health.

She had the honour of serving as an Adviser to the Honourable Prime Minister from 2006 to 2014 in science, technology and economic policy. Dr. Swati Piramal holds a Medical Degree from Mumbai University and a Masters Degree in Public Health from the prestigious Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She has been awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s Highest Civilian Honours, by the President of India in 2012.