As director of ICAP at Columbia University, Dr. El-Sadr leads a staff of more than 1,100 people who are providing technical assistance to resource-limited countries for HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs. Dr. El-Sadr is also the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiologic Research and a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University.
I was well aware of the work of the Population Council long before I became a board member. Through my own work on HIV, I had the opportunity to interact and collaborate with Council staff. In the context of our shared work, I gained an awareness of the Council's fierce commitment to the issues
it addresses and to its mission.
The Council's work is compelling to me because of the links it makes. It conducts high-quality research and translates it into program activities and best practices in ways that can influence policy. I'm also impressed with the breadth of the organization's work. It has a long history and
tradition in women's health and a commitment to family planning. It is also a leader in HIV- prevention research while doing cutting-edge work on gender and youth dynamics. Here again, the Council creates links. Its staff collaborates across the key areas of focus for the Council, learning from each other and strategizing in an effort to answer questions in new ways. No other organization brings together such a broad array of issues and approaches.
Since joining the Council's board in 2007, I've always really looked forward to board meetings and the opportunities to meet with Council staff and leadership. Like the Council's staff, the board is made up of a diverse group of people hailing from different professional and geographic backgrounds. And like the Council staff, the members of the board have a palpable commitment to the Council's work and a deep appreciation of the very real impact that work makes in the world. It's inspiring to be a part of an engaged team of people who are dedicated to using their unique experience and expertise to moving the Council’s mission forward.
Now more than ever, I think it is important to support the work of the Council. There is a perception that some of the issues the Council works on are no longer critical, that we have all the answers and tools we need. This is so far from the reality. The Council continues to work on some of the most critical health issues, such as preventing the spread of HIV in vulnerable populations and meeting the unique needs of girls in poverty. Moreover, the Council continues to seek out and identify new patterns of inequity and need.
We find ourselves on the threshold of a new era in public health, due to the abundance of new tools and technological capabilities. Organizations like the Council, with its depth of history and breadth of expertise, are critical at this point in time for articulating what we know and what we don’t know, and therefore where we are going.