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Epidemics and Pandemics: Lessons from the Past, Coordinating for the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not the first global health crisis we’ve encountered, nor will it be the last. As technology advances and the world learns from epidemics and pandemics past, how can we build robust surveillance systems to track the emergence of these diseases, especially among populations with less technological access, and ensure an equitable and cooperative global prevention and vaccination response? On Thursday, April 8 at 12 p.m. EDT, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) hosted a discussion on the use of technology and data in tracking and monitoring global health crises, why collaboration in international response is critical, and how to ensure equity in vaccine distribution. 

The conversation was moderated by Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FISA, a practicing HIV/infectious diseases specialist, internist, and epidemiologist who is clinical assistant professor in the department of medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She is CEO, president, and founder of Just Human Productions, a nonprofit multimedia organization. She served on the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, and is the host and producer of podcasts American Diagnosis, focused on health and social justice, and Epidemic, covering the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Featured panelists: 

  • John Brownstein, PhD is the chief innovation officer and director of the computational epidemiology group at Boston Children’s Hospital, and professor in the department of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He is the founder of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) platform VaccineFinder, leads the disease surveillance systems HealthMap.org, the first tool to identify and track the emergence of COVID-19 in China in 2019, and co-founded Global.Health, an open data set tracking COVID-19 and future pandemics internationally. He has advised the World Health Organization (WHO), Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, and the White House on real-time public health surveillance data.
  • Sanjana Ravi, MPH is a senior analyst at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a senior research associate in the department of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a PhD candidate focused on health systems through the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research is centered on infectious disease outbreaks, vaccine policy, health systems strengthening efforts in low- and middle-income settings, and the intersections between health, security, and human rights.
  • Ronald Waldman, MD, MPH, a former PHR board member, is professor of global health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health of George Washington University. His career has focused on pandemic preparedness and response, child health in developing countries, the control of communicable diseases in low-income settings, and the provision of humanitarian assistance to populations affected by both natural disasters and armed conflict. He has worked in leadership positions at the CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the WHO. He is co-chair of a WHO/UCH2030 working group on COVID-19 in fragile states and countries in conflict and president and chairman of the board of directors of Doctors of the World USA.

See all events on PHR’s COVID-19 Webinar Series.