As we begin the new year, Physicians for Human Rights is launching an aggressive growth plan to significantly expand and globalize our network of scientific and medical experts. Harnessing the extraordinary authority of scientists and health professionals, this strategic approach to growing our organization will build PHR’s expertise and rigor to investigate, document, and advocate to end human rights abuses around the world.
We are pleased to announce the creation of PHR’s global Advisory Council, a roster of world-class scientific and medical experts whose wide-ranging skills and knowledge will help shape and guide PHR’s work. This growing group of exceptional professionals will leverage the best scientific expertise in the area of health and human rights to work alongside PHR’s outstanding staff and volunteers.
Like PHR’s board of directors, the Council brings to PHR a broad and deep knowledge of medicine and science, including forensic medicine, medical ethics, chemical and conventional weapons, torture, sexual violence, survey research, data analysis, women’s health, correctional health, the psychological consequences of human rights violations, monitoring and evaluation methods, training of doctors and data collectors, and medical publishing, among other fields. A full list of this inaugural group of Advisory Council members can be found here.
PHR is also very pleased to announce new leadership in the appointment of Michele Heisler, MD, MPA as PHR’s new medical director and Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS as senior medical advisor. They succeed Vincent Iacopino, MD, PhD, a health and human rights pioneer who is retiring after serving for nearly three decades as PHR medical director and then senior medical advisor.
Dr. Heisler, a former PHR board member and professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan medical school, has spent a lifetime researching and advocating for the health and human rights of vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. She began her career in human rights at the Ford Foundation before obtaining her medical degree, and first began volunteering for PHR in medical school. Since then, she has participated in multiple PHR investigations, authored dozens of PHR reports and medical journal articles, and brought these findings to medical, policy, and advocacy forums. As medical director, Dr. Heisler will help strengthen PHR’s impact in promoting health and human rights throughout the world, ensuring that PHR investigations are conducted with the highest methodological and clinical rigor. And she will broaden PHR’s network of medical associations and health professionals globally, building in more peer review at every stage – proposal, study design, analysis, and publications – to ensure the scientific accuracy and authority of our work. She will also help design, secure funding for, and lead new projects.
Dr. Mishori is a professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and director of the department’s Global Health Initiatives. A former journalist, she is a practicing family physician who has built a multi-dimensional, two-decade career that includes academia, scholarship, clinical care, mentorship, and leadership roles in public health, global health, medical education, the care of underserved populations, and human rights. Dr. Mishori has been a member of PHR’s Asylum Network since 2006 and has worked extensively with our Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones since 2011. As senior medical advisor, Dr. Mishori will provide strategic counsel and support for a range of PHR programs and projects, including PHR’s burgeoning work to promote clinicians in policy discussions and advocacy at the highest domestic and international levels.
Together, Dr. Heisler and Dr. Mishori bring decades of medical, human rights, and leadership expertise to PHR; they have helped train medical colleagues around the world to document human rights abuses and will spearhead our efforts to expand our research and investigations efforts and galvanize a new generation of health professionals to our cause.
In 2019, medical professionals all over the world took to the front lines in the fight for human rights. Sudanese doctors and nurses led pro-democracy protests that toppled a dictator. American medical professionals challenged U.S. efforts to deter and harm asylum seekers. Syrian health workers braved daily bombardment, arrest, and torture to provide medical care to all those in need. Everywhere, medical professionals put their extraordinary skills, ethics, and dedication to work to defend the rights of their fellow humans.
We at PHR are proud to call many of those courageous doctors, nurses, and other health workers our partners. Building on more than 30 years of bringing evidence to the defense of human rights and nurturing and promoting the advocacy voices of health professionals, PHR is now ushering in a new era of medical and scientific excellence. This exciting development is just one of the many ways that we are taking PHR’s rigorous research, programs, and advocacy to new heights.