Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Changing of the guard

New leadership at four public health powerhouses

By Martha McKenzie, Illustrations by Turgay Tuncer


Gary M. Reedy  

Gary M. Reedy | American Cancer Society

Gary M. Reedy became CEO of the American Cancer Society in April 2015, replacing John Seffrin, who had held the post since 1992. Reedy came to the society from Johnson & Johnson, where he most recently served as worldwide vice president of government affairs and policy. During his 37-year career in the health care industry, Reedy also held senior leadership positions with SmithKline Beecham and Centocor.

You played a volunteer leadership role in the American Cancer Society’s recent restructuring. How did that change benefit the society?

Since the 1960s, the American Cancer Society has had a volunteer national board and then separate geographic divisions, each with their own volunteer governing board. If you tried to engage with a national corporation, like a GM or a Johnson & Johnson, you would have to get every single board to agree, and it usually didn’t happen. We now have one governing board and one CEO and we can better direct and leverage the resources of the society on an enterprise level.

What is your vision for the American Cancer Society?

I want to position and strengthen the American Cancer Society to achieve its mission of eliminating cancer as soon as we possibly can, realizing we cannot do it by ourselves. I want the organization to work more closely with other groups to have a greater impact sooner. In addition, I want the society to become much more present in Atlanta and in Georgia. If you ask people where the global headquarters of the American Cancer Society is, most would say New York City or D.C. I want people to be aware and proud that we are headquartered here.

What do you see as the most pressing public health issues facing the society?

The biggest one would still have to be tobacco. We’ve made a lot of progress, but it is still the only FDA-regulated product that, when used as intended, kills half of its users. Eighty percent of lung cancer deaths and a third of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use. Stepping back and taking a broader view, if we could convince people to do what we know they should—cut out tobacco, eat properly, exercise, get screenings—we could reduce the risk of cancer death by more than 50%. And finally, we need to address the disparities of incidence and outcome due to race, ethnicity, income, and education levels. One thing I’ve come to appreciate since I’ve been here—your zip code can be more important than your genetic code in determining your health outcome.

How do you see the society’s relationship with Rollins?

It’s a great relationship with significant cross fertilization. Many Rollins students come here as postdocs either for a project or for a full-time position. The majority of the folks in our epidemiology department are adjuncts at Rollins. I think we do a good job of sharing data and knowledge with each other, and I want to see that continue.

Michelle Nunn  

Michelle Nunn | CARE USA

Michelle Nunn assumed the role of president and CEO of CARE USA last July, replacing Helene Gayle. Nunn has devoted her 25-year career to civic and public service as a social entrepreneur, a nonprofit CEO, and a candidate for U.S. Senate. She co-founded the volunteer-mobilization organization Hands On Atlanta and oversaw that group’s merger with Points of Light, founded by President George H. W. Bush to promote volunteerism. Nunn served as Points of Light CEO from 2007 to 2013.

What is your vision for CARE?

I want to build on CARE’s long-term goal of eradicating extreme poverty by using the lever of women and girls to lift up families and communities. Today we touch the lives of 72 million people, and I want to expand that to 150 million by 2020.

How do you plan to reach that expansion goal?

Through partnerships that broaden the opportunities for the public to engage. For example, we currently have a partnership with the World Wildlife Federation aimed at addressing the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. In Mozambique, for example, we have worked together to create a community-based sustainable fishery program, to develop farmer field schools to teach farmers about sustainable agriculture, and to create community-based natural resource management committees. We will be able to do more and better work by coming together with other organizations in the same way.

What are the main public health challenges CARE is facing?

The Ebola crisis showed us how weak some of the health systems are, and we need to figure out how to build up and strengthen health systems in developing countries. The other challenge we see ahead is reproductive and maternal health. We have a real focus on women and children, especially in emergency and conflict situations. We need to ensure that women in humanitarian emergency situations have access to maternal health programs.

Is CARE involved in the Syrian refugee crisis?

CARE is assisting Syrian refugees both inside Syria (through partners) and in the bordering countries where more than 90% of refugees live. CARE has provided more than 1 million Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, and those displaced inside Syria with food, hygiene items, and emergency cash assistance to help refugees cover basic living costs like food and rent. We also provide psychosocial support and referrals for needs such as health care and help improve water supply and sewage systems so both Syrian refugees’ and host families’ lives are better.

How would you describe CARE’s relationship with Rollins?

Rollins is a terrific partner here in Atlanta, and I would like to see us build upon it in the future. We have 11 Rollins students from the Rollins Earn and Learn program working with us now, which gives them valuable experience but also brings us fresh perspectives. We have had 13 CARE employees accepted as Foege Fellows. We would like to build more partnerships around the Humphrey Fellows and the wonderful Rollins WASH program. I’m very interested in building an ecosystem in Atlanta to fight global poverty, and I am looking for creative ways to expand our partnerships with Rollins and other organizations toward that end.

David Ross  

David Ross | The Task Force for Global Health

Dave Ross takes the helm of the Task Force for Global Health as president and CEO in April 2016, replacing Mark Rosenberg. Ross has been with the Task Force for 15 years, serving as director of the Public Health Informatics Institute and vice president for program development.

What do you see as the Task Force for Global Health’s greatest strength?

Our ability to bring all the different players to the table in a neutral setting so we can all work together to solve a problem. The Task Force originally was conceived as a time-limited organization aimed at bringing disparate groups together to solve the problem of immunizing kids. It worked so well that other groups kept approaching us and asking us to play the same role for them.

What is your vision for the Task Force?

I see us continuing to build on those strengths we have built over the past 30 years but with a growing emphasis on sustainability. Today we realize our approaches need to not only improve health, but they must also build the local government and economy in a way that allows health improvements to be sustained over time. Applying this type of business model to public health is a real shift.

I also see us growing the mission of our Public Health Informatics Institute to explore and disseminate the ways the technology of today can be used to support the broader health mission.

What are the most pressing public health challenges the Task Force is facing?

We will continue to work to eradicate or contain neglected tropical diseases, as we have been doing for quite some time. But to our credit, some of those diseases are close to being wiped out. I believe river blindness and trachoma will be eradicated or contained in the not too distant future.

When I look ahead, one of the biggest threats I see to global health is noncommunicable diseases—cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, cancer, and injuries. They have reached epidemic proportions around the world. Our job is to figure out where we can make a unique contribution, and by that I mean a contribution that others aren’t making and that the commercial marketplace won’t fill on its own.

How can the Task Force help tackle these chronic illnesses?

We could take a page from our neglected tropical disease programs, which are all partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies. Merck donates a drug to fight river blindness, and Pfizer donates the drug that treats trachoma, just to name two. That is corporate philanthropy at its best. We might be able to use similar drug donation models to address noncommunicable diseases, particularly in areas where people can’t access insulin, cancer drugs, and blood pressure medications.

How would you see the Task Force’s relationship with the Rollins School of Public Health?

There is a nexus between the school’s mission of education and research and the Task Force’s service delivery and health promotion mission. The Task Force can offer field work for Rollins researchers and students, and the research findings at Rollins can help guide our support work. And, of course, Jim Curran is on our board, and many of us have faculty appointments at the school. We have a strong bond that I see growing even stronger over time.

Mary Ann Peters  

Mary Ann Peters | The Carter Center

Former Ambassador Mary Ann Peters joined The Carter Center as CEO in September 2014, succeeding John Hardman, who held the post since 1992. Previously, Peters had served as provost of the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. She spent more than 30 years as a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State.

What is your vision for the center?

The Carter Center had been doing just fine without me, thank you. But that said, organizations can benefit from a fresh look. I see patience and persistence as among the center’s greatest strengths. In a world of short attention spans, where there is often a disconnect between the scope and complexity of a problem and the time granted for a solution, The Carter Center stands out for staying the course. Just look at our 30-year war against the Guinea worm. I’d like to apply that persistence to other problems that would benefit from that long-view approach.

What sorts of problems might those be?

For example, we have a program, Access to Information for Women, that is unique in the world. It currently operates in three countries, but the problem of women’s access to information is so pervasive, I’d like to see the program grow to other countries. I could say the same thing for a number of other programs at the center.

What are the most pressing public health issues The Carter Center is facing?

Disease eradication and elimination remain high on the list. Not only is the center good at eradication efforts because of the patience required, but we are committed to it for ethical reasons. That’s because if you choose to merely control a disease instead of eradicate it, you are choosing that some people will suffer from it. In addition to Guinea worm, we are working to eliminate or eradicate river blindness, blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria in Hispaniola.

We see the connection between many of the diseases we are focusing on and water and sanitation. I would like to explore the possibility of partnerships with organizations that work on WASH—water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. The Rollins WASH program could fall into that category.

We also see the void in health services in many areas as a pressing issue we can address. The Carter Center implemented a public health training initiative in Ethiopia a few years ago, and we are looking to replicate that in some other African countries as a way to boost the number of trained health professionals.

How would you describe The Carter Center’s relationship with the Rollins School of Public Health?

Very close. The Carter Center is a partner of Emory University, and our board of trustees includes appointees from both the center and Emory. Our mental health program, in particular, has very close ties with Rollins and with its first Rosalynn Carter Chair in Mental Health, Benjamin Druss. The Center for Global Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Emory regularly works with our Trachoma Control Program. Each year, Rollins students are awarded some of our highly competitive internships.

In addition, a healthy number of Rollins alumni work for The Carter Center, and some of our staff lecture at the school. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.


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