Radcliffe Day 2023
On Radcliffe Day 2023—Friday, May 26—we will award the Radcliffe Medal to Ophelia Dahl to honor her work advancing global access to healthcare and championing the rights of the poor.
Each year, during Harvard University’s Commencement Week, the Radcliffe Institute awards its highest honor to an individual who embodies its commitment to excellence, inclusion, and social impact. The Radcliffe Medal was first awarded to Lena Horne in 1987. Recipients include Madeleine Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Melinda French Gates, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dolores Huerta, Sherrilyn Ifill, Toni Morrison, Sandra Day O'Connor, Gloria Steinem, and Janet Yellen.
Ophelia Dahl cofounded Partners In Health (PIH) in 1987 with Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Todd McCormack, and Thomas J. White in Haiti’s rural Central Plateau. The organization now serves millions of patients in 11 countries on four continents around the world. Dahl led the organization as executive director for 16 years and now chairs its board of directors. She writes, teaches, and speaks about the health and rights of the poor, moral imagination, and accompaniment, which Dahl describes as “walking shoulder to shoulder through whatever challenges arise.” Throughout her career, Dahl has been a tireless advocate for the human rights of the world’s most vulnerable people. Her moral clarity and determination have reshaped the global conversation about healthcare.
PIH’s community-based model has helped to redefine what’s possible in healthcare delivery in settings of poverty, proving that HIV, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, and other diseases can be effectively treated in communities from Peru to Rwanda. Under Dahl’s leadership, PIH’s revenue increased tenfold to more than $100 million per year. And she helped the organization navigate challenges with existential implications for both PIH and the millions of patients it serves. Dahl’s answers to strategic questions—such as whether and under what conditions to accept public-sector funds; with what kinds of governments to partner; and how to reconcile the necessity of crisis response and the crucial, long-term work of building health systems—reflect her vision and exemplary leadership.
A sought-after writer and speaker, Dahl calls for courage in the face of problems that seem intractable. “Don’t do this thing where you say, ‘Well I don’t know that that can be done,’” she tells us. “Instead, say, ‘I’m not going to stand for that.’ You push. You push, push, push.” PIH’s successes reflect this ethos. The organization has often worked far outside the typical bounds of a health-focused organization, providing care in regions others had written off and making critical investments in infrastructure and basic necessities while pioneering the practice of accompaniment.
On a global scale, PIH has defied the prevailing wisdom on providing healthcare to the poor, using both data—the remarkable clinical results of their community-based, on-the-ground work—and a persuasive ethical case. As a New Yorker profile described, Dahl has been able to convince some of the world’s most powerful and fortunate people that they have “a moral obligation to investigate—and compensate for—the suffering that underlies their comfort.”
To Dahl, being pessimistic is unacceptable: it is “just about the most privileged thing you can be,” she says. “You are basically deciding that there’s no hope for a whole group of people who can’t afford to think that way.”
Unyielding Belief in Possibility of Delivering Healthcare for Global Poor (Harvard Gazette, 5/30/23)
Chelsea Clinton will offer a testimonial to Dahl’s remarkable work and impact.
The Essential Role of Women Leaders in Global Health
A key component of Radcliffe Day is a panel of internationally recognized experts on a theme related to the work of the Radcliffe Medalist. This year we will focus on the essential role of women leaders in global health.
Our panel will explore the critical importance of women leaders in global health, probe links between disparate health outcomes for women and girls and the dearth of women leaders in the field, and consider how best to address persistent gender gaps in global health leadership. The research and treatment of health issues specific to women consistently receive less support than those particular to men, while women and girls face unique barriers to healthcare access and experience significant disparities in health outcomes. In this context, it is striking—but perhaps not surprising—to note that while women make up the vast majority of the global health workforce, they comprise a small minority among the world’s most prominent health leaders.
The discussion will be moderated by Jacqueline Bhabha. Panelists include Agnes Binagwaho, Natalia Kanem ’76, Abby Maxman, and Reema Nanavaty.
Radcliffe Medal Ceremony
Following the panel discussion, Ophelia Dahl will engage in a keynote conversation with the author and PIH trustee John Green, whose best-selling books include The Fault in Our Stars and other titles that have been adapted for film and streaming. Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin RI ’17 will formally present the 2023 Radcliffe Medal.
Welcome: Tomiko Brown-Nagin
Testimonial: Chelsea Clinton
Panel: “The Essential Role of Women Leaders in Global Health,” with Agnes Binagwaho, Natalia Kanem ’76, Abby Maxman, and Reema Nanavaty. Moderated by Jacqueline Bhabha.
Remarks: Tomiko Brown-Nagin
Conversation: Ophelia Dahl and John Green
Presentation of the Radcliffe Medal
Jacqueline Bhabha is a professor of the practice of health and human rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, and an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is also the director of research at the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. She has published extensively on issues of transnational child migration, refugee protection, children’s rights, and citizenship, including Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age (Princeton University Press, 2016) and Can We Solve the Migration Crisis? (Polity, 2018). Bhabha was the founding chair of the Scholars at Risk Network, and she serves on the boards of Fortify Rights, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, the Journal on Migration and Human Security, the Journal of Refugee Studies, and the World Peace Foundation.
Agnes Binagwaho is a Rwandan pediatrician and the retired vice chancellor and cofounder of the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), an initiative of Partners In Health that trains global health professionals who strive to deliver more equitable, quality health services for all. She has provided clinical care in the public sector and served as the executive secretary of Rwanda’s National AIDS Control Commission, as permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, and as minister of health. She is a professor of pediatrics at UGHE, a senior lecturer in the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. She is also an Emerson Elder, has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles, and was named among the 100 most influential African women for 2020 and 2021.
Chelsea Clinton is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and works alongside the foundation’s leadership and partners to improve lives and inspire emerging leaders across the United States and around the world. This includes the foundation’s early child initiative Too Small to Fail, which supports families with the resources they need to promote early brain and language development, and the Clinton Global Initiative University, a global program that empowers student leaders to turn their ideas into action. In addition, Clinton teaches at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and has written numerous books for young readers, including the number one New York Times bestseller She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World (Philomel Books, 2017). Clinton’s podcast, In Fact with Chelsea Clinton, premiered in 2021, and she is the cofounder of HiddenLight Productions.
John Green is the award-winning, number-one bestselling author of books including The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2012), Turtles All the Way Down (Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017), and The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet (Dutton, 2021). His books have received many accolades, including a Michael L. Printz Award, a Michael L. Printz Honor, and an Edgar Award, and he has twice been a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. With his brother, Hank, Green has cocreated many online video projects, including Vlogbrothers and the educational channel Crash Course. He lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit Green online.
Natalia Kanem ’76 has dedicated her life to improving the health and lives of women and children by championing their rights and choices. She leverages her combined expertise in science, public health, and philanthropy to advance the reproductive health and rights of women and girls and to uphold the human dignity of all. As United Nations under-secretary-general and executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, a sexual and reproductive health agency, Kanem oversees life-saving policy, development, and humanitarian work in over 120 countries, with the aim of assuring that “every pregnancy is intended, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”
Abby Maxman is president and CEO of Oxfam America. She mobilizes people and resources worldwide for positive social change and to provide lifesaving support to people in crisis. Since joining Oxfam in 2017, she has elevated its focus on gender, climate justice, and fighting inequality. She has been at the forefront of Oxfam’s efforts to safeguard systems and cultures in the aid sector, its response to the COVID pandemic, its emphasis on vaccine equity, and its ambitious 2030 strategy. She has served as vice chair of InterAction, chair of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, and a representative on the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee. She has also served on the boards of Frontline AIDS and the Global Executive Leadership Initiative, and on the Classy Awards Leadership Council.
Reema Nanavaty has worked with the Self Employed Women’s Association for more than 35 years. She expanded its membership to over 2.1 million members, making it the single largest union of informal-sector women workers. She oversees 4,813 self-help groups, 160 cooperatives, and 15 economic federations across India and in seven South Asian countries, focusing on women’s economic empowerment by building women-owned enterprises and women-led supply chains, introducing modern information and communications technology–based tools, and facilitating green-energy initiatives and livelihoods. She was honored with a Padma Shri (the fourth-highest civilian award in the Republic of India) for her contributions in the area of social services in 2013. She is currently a member of the Advisory Council on Gender and Development of the World Bank Group.