Michelle Geiss makes her point by telling stories. She begins one with, “In a remote corner of Uganda, down a long dirt road…,” setting the scene for a compelling account of Sarah, mother of four, who faces daunting difficulties in protecting her children from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea—three reasons why many children in her nation never see their fifth birthday.
To Geiss, global public health is always personal. While “scaling up” programs to meet national needs, she holds in her sight the individuals who will benefit. She illustrates her arguments with stories from her own experience.
After building a foundation in research at NIH, where she was introduced to “the beautiful logic” of epidemiology and public health, she decided she wanted to translate research into action. She joined Population Services International (PSI) “for its insistence on developing innovative and evidence-based global health programs, delivering results, and measuring impact.” During six years with PSI, she has worked across Africa and in Haiti, helping to get simple health products and services to the hardest to reach places and most vulnerable people—condoms for gay men, family planning training for rural health workers, and malaria treatment for Sarah and her family.
Because Geiss has seen that vast disparities in access to quality health services affect women disproportionately, she aims “to champion high-impact interventions that are tailored to the challenges women face in the developing world.” She is especially interested in creating a model of health-care delivery that will harness private-sector innovation to improve existing health systems and build trust in their services. “I’ve been repeatedly surprised by the power of data and leadership—the degree to which these can spark positive change or, when neglected, allow precious resources to be squandered,” she says. “Proactive, evidence-based public health initiatives can and do work.”
Executive Director, Impact Hub Baltimore