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Plenary speakers

Plenary speakers


Opening plenary: October 29th, 8:30 AM
Leaving no one behind? Reflection for action in a changing world

Keynote: Paul Farmer
Partners in Health, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Paul Farmer, physician and anthropologist, is chief strategist and co-founder of Partners In Health, Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He also serves as U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. His most recent books are In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction, and To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation.


Shakira Choonara
Southern Africian AIDS Trust

Dr Shakira Choonara is considered to be a young leader, researcher and activist at the forefront of public health and development both in South Africa (SA) and globally.  Dr Choonara is currently employed as a regional advocacy officer at the Southern African AIDS Trust where she is responsible for driving innovative youth activism programmes throughout five African countries. She recently completed her PhD in Public Health focussing on financial management in the health sector and also hold an Honours (Cum Laude) and a Masters in Demography from the University of the Witwatersrand, SA. She has also contributed substantially to multi-country research through the Resilient and Responsive Health System (RESYST) project which aims to improve healthcare across various African and Asian countries. Ms Choonara’s writings and involvement in other research such as Universal Health Coverage (UHC- Health for All), fostering leadership in the health system and malaria prevention has been widely published, engaged with internationally and feeds into improving the health system in SA and other low-and-middle income settings. Additionally, she has been the recipient of several prestigious research and leadership awards throughout her career. She was recently named 2017 Woman of the Year in Healthcare by the Woman of Stature network, SA.  Internationally, she was selected as the European Union (EU) Development Days Young Leader for Health in 2015 and an Emerging Voice for Global Health in 2014.  

James Orbinski
York University, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research

Dr. Orbinski is a humanitarian practitioner and a leading scholar in global health. He believes in humanitarianism, in citizenship and in actively engaging and shaping the world in which we live, so that it is more humane, fair and just. 

As of September 2017, he is the Director of the newly created Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, at York University . He has been working internationally for thirty years, is a former international president of Medecins Sans Frontiers, and is co-founder of Dignitas International which has started more than 250,000 people on treatment for HIV in Malawi, and works with Aboriginal Communities in Canada to improve community health. His research interests are focused on the health impacts of climate change, health and humanitarianism, and the health and well being of aboriginal and indigenous peoples.

Basimenye Nhlema
Partners in Health, Malawi

Basimenye Nhlema is the Director of Community Health at Partners In Health in Malawi. In this capacity, she leads and manages the Community Health Worker (CHW) program, the Community Programs team, and the Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER), interdisciplinary teams focusing on community health in a rural and impoverished population. The CHW program manages nearly 1000 CHWs who focus on education and health screening at the household level; the Community Programs team runs an innovative integrated screening program for chronic conditions in remote areas; and the POSER team provides support to patients’ basic social and economic needs. Currently, Basimenye is spearheading efforts across PIH departments to modify the CHW services from patient-based to household assignments. The new model will assign CHWs to households with the aim of improving retention in care for clients with chronic, non-communicable diseases, along with increased uptake of women’s health services and treatment for pediatric malnutrition, while sustaining the high retention rates for clients in the HIV program. Previously, she worked as Senior Project Manager for Pakachere Institute for Health and Development Communication (IHDC), contributing to programs that aimed at increasing demand for and utilization of HIV prevention, care and support services among key populations and the youth. Basimenye is a graduate of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa with a Masters of Arts in Dramatic Arts.

Julia Sánchez
Canadian Council of International Co-operation

Julia Sanchez is President-CEO of the Canadian Council of International Co-operation (CCIC) since August 2011. Before joining CCIC, Julia was the National Campaigns Director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA), known as the “tcktcktck” campaign. She has extensive experience in top‐level international development management, including many years working in developing countries (Bolivia, Guatemala, Nepal and India) and with numerous Canadian and international partners and donors. Julia has designed and managed programs in areas such as humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, democratic development, community-based economic development, international volunteering and, more recently, campaigning on climate change.

Plenary 2: October 30th, 8:30 AM
Health of marginalized populations during and following periods of crisis

Keynote: Guy Standing
University of London; Basic Income Earth Network

Guy Standing is a Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and a founder and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), a non-governmental organisation promoting basic income with members in over 50 countries. Before joining SOAS, he was Professor of Economic Security at the University of Bath, UK, and Professor of Labour Economics at Monash University, Australia. He previously directed the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. A labour economist with a doctorate from the University of Cambridge, Professor Standing has worked in both developed and developing countries and in the “transition” countries of eastern Europe. He has been a consultant to many governments and international agencies, including the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Commission. Read more...

Esperanza Martinez
International Committee of the Red Cross


Dr Esperanza Martinez is the Head of Health for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). She is a medical doctor and general surgeon specialized in International Public Health, Health Management and Integrative Medicine. Prior to re-joining the ICRC in November 2015, she worked for the private sector, UN agencies, government bodies and NGOs. Her experience includes over ten years of field work in conflict affected contexts.

She is responsible for overseeing the implementation of ICRC’s Health Strategy 2014-2018, which focuses on an integrated and comprehensive public health approach aimed at providing healthcare services to populations affected by conflict and other situations of violence. ICRC’s health programs include: First Aid and Pre-Hospital Care, Primary Healthcare, Healthcare in Detention, Hospital Medical Services, Physical Rehabilitation and Mental Health and Psychosocial support.

Anna Coates​
Pan American Health Organization

Of British nationality, Anna Coates holds a Masters degree in Modern International Studies from the University of Leeds and a PhD in Gender from the London School of Economics and Political Science (with a thesis focused upon identity and policy issues related to indigenous women's reproductive health in Mexico).

She began her career as a lecturer and researcher in gender and development theory and methodologies at various academic institutions in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Mexico. She was subsequently Gender Research Leader for Immpact (a major maternal health programme evaluation initiative funded by the Gates Foundation, DFID, and USAID). Directly prior to joining the UN, Anna was Global Gender Advisor for Oxfam G.B.'s policy and programmes.

She entered the UN system firstly in ECLAC (the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) where she was Chief of the Social Development Unit at the subregional office based in Mexico City from 2007 to 2010 (covering Mexico, Central America, Cuba, the Dominican Republican and Haiti), during which time she also served as Chair of the Mexico UN Interagency Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Thematic Group.  Since then she has undertaken roles as the Acting Chief of the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Section at UN-ESCAP (the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) and the Deputy Regional Director of UN Women in the Americas and Caribbean.  She joined the Pan American Health Organization as Chief of Gender and Cultural Diversity in late 2014.  One of the major achievements of her tenure has been the recent approval of PAHO’s Policy on Ethnicity and Health.


Closing Plenary: October 31st, 3:30 PM
Sustainable and equitable environmental action

Keynote: Blake Poland
Dalla Lana School of Public Health


Dr. Blake Poland is a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) at the University of Toronto, Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Community Development, co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre in Health Promotion, co-lead of the DLSPH Healthier Cities & Communities hub. Trained in social/health geography (PhD McMaster 1994), Blake’s research has focussed on the settings approach to health promotion, the health of marginalized groups, the sociology of tobacco control, theorizing and working with context in public health intervention research, and community development as an arena of practice for health professionals. Since 2006, his work has focused primarily on ecological public health, community resilience, urban sustainability transitions, social movements as agents of change, and authentic dialogue as a tool for transformative social change.


Max FineDay
Canadian Roots Exchange

Max FineDay is a nêhiyaw napew from the Sweetgrass First Nation and currently Co-Executive Director of Canadian Roots Exchange. 

Max is known nationally for his work on youth leadership development, and centers efforts on ideas and projects that move Canada toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. He is focused on delivering results, building relationships, and speaking to both the challenges and opportunities that exist for Canada and Indigenous peoples today.

He is currently based in Toronto and can be found on twitter, @MaxFineDay.

Fadya Orozco
Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

Fadya Orozco, Public Health Doctor awarded by the Institute of Public Health of the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil, holds a Masters in Public Health and Development from "The Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands". In 2008, the Global Health Leadership Program at the International Development Research Center (IDRC) granted her as one of the Global Health Leaders. She has conducted studies of community medicine, gender, cultural diversity and health. She graduated from medical at the Central University of Ecuador. In her career, she has led programs and projects in health promotion, intersectoral public policies, applied and interdisciplinary participatory in health and agriculture, biodiversity and nutrition, health rights, citizen oversight and social participation in health research. Dr. Orozco has held public office, was National Secretary for Promotion, Prevention and Equality in the Ministry of Health of Ecuador in 2012 and consultant responsible for the World Bank Project Modersa- aspects of health reform and decentralization in Ecuador. She has been collaborated as Ecohealth Project Coordinator in the International Potato Center based in Ecuador. She currently serves as a professor-researcher and director of the Master of Public Health at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador.

Albert Tseng
Moonspire Social Ventures, Founder/President

Albert is passionate about utilizing the power of business to address important social issues. He is founder of Moonspire Social Ventures and works with social enterprises, companies, development institutions, and impact investors that are engaged in sustainable business models that impact global poverty and health. Albert is currently working to develop the plant based meat sector in China, in hopes to create a market alternative to the growing livestock industry which has significant environmental and health consequences.  Albert is also Strategic Advisor (former COO) at BlueDot, a Certified B Corporation that studies how infectious diseases disperse worldwide through analysis of six categories of big data, including vast environmental datasets.  He has also consulted to a number of different organizations, including his role as Health Sector Lead for the United Nations Business Call to Action initiative which works with companies that have innovative business models that combine profitability with social impact in developing countries.  Previously, Albert was based in South Africa with the Clinton Foundation managing a program that worked with government, donors and private sector to improve HIV health system efficiency.  Over his 20+ year career, Albert has also worked in business development for a major multinational, as a healthcare management consultant, and as a biomedical engineer.  Albert has a MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, a MHSc. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and a BASc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.