Andrew and Corey Morris-Singer are deploying resources where they can have an immediate impact in the fight against COVID-19.
When faced with an enemy like COVID-19—novel, invisible, deadly, and little-understood—informed leadership is crucial. And yet, Dr. Andrew Morris-Singer, HMS ’07, saw the United States facing the onset of this global crisis with “a vacuum of leadership” and “gutted” pandemic response and public health systems. Andrew and his husband, Corey Morris-Singer, PhD ‘12, leaped to provide that leadership in the philanthropic sector, magnifying the work of experts across public health and bioscience. One of their first priorities? Helping two centers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with key roles in confronting COVID-19 scale up their operations.
The Harvard Chan School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD), led by Professor of Epidemiology Marc Lipsitch, and Ariadne Labs, a joint venture of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital led by Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH, received a combined total of $1.4 million thanks to a generous gift from Andrew and Corey through their Foundation.
“COVID-19 represents an extraordinary challenge to our society, and our systems of care,” says Andrew. “We believe that both the CCDD and Ariadne Labs are going to make critical contributions to addressing this crisis.”
The $900,000 gift to CCDD will enable the Center to continue its emergency work modeling and predicting the spread and impact of COVID-19, as well as the impact of shelter-in-place orders and social distancing. CCDD has been advising the White House and governors across the country, improving testing procedures and availability in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and finding innovative ways to uncover hidden information about the pandemic—from predicting disease prevalence using infection rates among travelers to reporting on the effectiveness of social distancing using data from social media. “Marc has already had an enormous impact,” Andrew notes. “If you look at the information and narratives being used in the media and among leaders and influencers, much of what they’re relying on is based upon the data that people like Marc and his team have produced.”
“…we realized that this was going to be an unprecedented situation, and everybody was going to have to step up and put a lot more on the line than they previously had.”
An additional gift of $500,000 will allow Ariadne Labs to expand its current work around community mitigation strategies, like social distancing; partnering with other countries facing this global pandemic; guidelines on practice and protective equipment for hospital systems, as well as guidelines for obstetrics, surgery, virtual ambulatory care, and caring for the elderly during the crisis.
The Morris-Singers are both deeply involved in health systems science and practice. Andrew is a general internist and focuses on leadership development in health care. Corey is a cell biologist by training, founder and past-president of the Harvard Science Policy Group, and has been an advocate for support of science education and biomedical research funding.
The two co-founded the nonprofit Primary Care Progress, which Andrew continues to chair, to help support and develop leadership and change-management skills among U.S. primary care practitioners. As steeped as they both are in the health care and health policy worlds, they worried early on that the emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus was going to cause a health crisis in the U.S. “I think we realized that this was going to be an unprecedented situation, and everybody was going to have to step up and put a lot more on the line than they previously had.”
Through the Morris-Singer Foundation, they seek to help those on the front lines solve problems quickly based on their own knowledge and experience. That includes providing general operating support with few restrictions, to minimize the red tape needed for experts to deploy resources quickly to areas of greatest need. “We’re trying to get more resources to where they can have an immediate impact in the face of this crisis, but also to where they will be building the capacity for healthier and more resilient communities,” says Corey.
“We’re trying to get more resources to where they can have an immediate impact in the face of this crisis, but also to where they will be building the capacity for healthier and more resilient communities.”
Both CCDD and Ariadne Labs have a deep bench in confronting large-scale epidemics; they helped shape the world’s response to previous outbreaks like SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. Now, they face a pandemic that’s hitting home, for which little data is available, and for which governments and health systems have proven under-prepared. Operating support from donors like the Morris-Singers is allowing them to quickly scale up their work for maximum impact.
“This gift transforms our ability to do the most important science and make the most important contributions we can to evidence-based policy and decision-making, giving us the flexibility to deploy our resources in the areas of greatest need,” says Lipsitch of Harvard Chan’s CCDD. “We are very appreciative that the Morris-Singers have the confidence in us, and in our approach of building on basic science and methodological work to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice to a pandemic.”
“We are incredibly grateful to Andrew and Corey for investing in this critical work during a time of unprecedented challenges,” says Ariadne’s Asaf Bitton. “Because of their generosity, Ariadne will continue to have an immediate impact on patients, health care workers, governments, social service organizations, and the general public by developing evidence-based tools, best practices, and pragmatic guidelines to address COVID-19.”