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International Health

Anthony D. So, MD, MPA, to Lead New School-wide Technology Initiative to Improve Health Access and Impact

The IDEA Initiative (Innovation + Design for Enabling Access) will start by focusing on the looming challenge of antimicrobial resistance

Anthony D. So, MD, MPA, will join the Department of International Health as the School’s second Professor of the Practice and Director of a new program, the IDEA Initiative (Innovation + Design for Enabling Access).  IDEA will foster innovation and the design of new technologies for greater health access and impact through a combination of research, policy work and training. It will also serve as the home for a variety of projects from across the University sharing these goals.

“Anthony brings exceptional experience, scholarship and policy background, from access to medicines to antibiotic resistance, to this exciting undertaking,” says Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Having Anthony at the helm of the IDEA Initiative will enhance the School’s efforts to ensure that the benefits of these technologies will reach those in need.”

Dr. So will also lead the Transformative Technologies and Institutions arm of the University’s Global Health Signature Initiative, part of the Rising to the Challenge capital campaign. The Signature Initiative works to bring together scholars from public health, medicine, nursing, engineering, economics, public policy, and beyond to develop lifesaving solutions in such areas as food and nutrition security, counterfeit and substandard drugs, antimicrobial resistance, and universal health coverage. Dr. So will lead the effort to harness potentially transformative technologies and institutions to make health systems more equitable.

“I’m delighted Anthony is joining International Health and the Global Signature Initiative. Anthony brings a wealth of groundbreaking thinking around how to ensure technological innovations are sustainable and benefit both the poor and the global community as a whole,” says David Peters, MD DrPH, chair of the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School and the director of the Signature Initiative.

An early focus area for the IDEA Initiative will be antimicrobial resistance, building upon more than a decade of Dr. So’s work in this policy area. So currently leads the Strategic Policy Program of ReAct — Action on Antibiotic Resistance, which will now be housed in the IDEA Initiative. ReAct is a global network dedicated to meeting the challenge of antibiotic resistance, with regional nodes in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. This work will be particularly important as the UN General Assembly takes up antimicrobial resistance this September. 

Dr. So has served on The Lancet Infectious Diseases’ Commission on Antibiotic Resistance and co-authored the Chatham House report on a new global business model for financing antibiotic R&D. He has chaired a World Health Organization (WHO) expert working group on fostering innovation to combat antimicrobial resistance and was part of the Antibiotic Resistance Working Group of the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology. He also has studied antibiotic innovation as a recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

Dr. So recently joined the Bloomberg School from Duke University, where he founded and directed the Program on Global Health and Technology Access at the Sanford School of Public Policy. His work on globalization and health equity has spanned from innovation and access to health technologies to tobacco control in low- and middle-income countries. Applying value chain analysis, he led a research team that worked to improve UNICEF’s supply and to avoid stockouts of ready-to-use therapeutic foods for severely malnourished children in the Horn of Africa. The breadth of his technology interests has ranged from serving on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Accelerating Rare Disease Research and Orphan Product Development to serving as a judge and former Board member of Echoing Green, which funds new start-up social entrepreneurs. He recently has been part of the Expert Advisory Group of the UN High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

Throughout his career, Dr. So has worked to mentor a generation of future leaders in global health. For over a decade, he directed Duke’s Global Health Fellows program, which exposed students to global health policy coursework and internships in Geneva. He has served on a diverse range of non-profit boards and is currently on the boards of Public Citizen, one of the nation’s most prominent consumer groups, and Community Catalyst, a leading national organization that works to ensure quality, affordable health care for all, as well the Advisory Council of Princeton University’s Center for Health and Well-Being.

Prior to joining Duke, Dr. So was associate director of Health Equity at the Rockefeller Foundation, where his strategic approach to grant-making improved access to HIV/AIDS medicines in low- and middle-income countries and where he also worked to establish regional tobacco control in Southeast Asia. His grant-making helped to seed the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the WHO-Health Action International Medicine Prices Project, the People’s Health Movement and the first World Report on Violence and Health.