Harvard Medical School Instructor Raj Panjabi to Use His $1 Million Ted Prize to Train Health Workers

Raj Panjabi

BOSTON–Raj Panjabi, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, will use the $1 million he won in the 2017 TED Prize to train healthcare workers around the world, reported the Harvard Crimson.

Panjabi made the announcement Tuesday night at the international TED conference in Vancouver, Canada. He is an instructor in Medicine and Department of Global Health and Social Medicine Affiliate at Harvard Medical School.

Panjabi, who fled his home country of Liberia at age nine due to civil war and became a doctor in the United States, returned to Liberia in 2005. At the time, only 51 doctors were available to serve the four million people in the war-torn country, a situation analogous to eight doctors serving the entirety of Washington, D.C. according to the Harvard Crimson.

Raj Panjabi

In his remarks in Vancouver Tuesday night, Panjabi said the organization he plans to found with the prize money, Community Health Academy, will train healthcare workers around the world and save 30 million lives by 2030, the Harvard Crimson reported.

“The idea is that help for these communities might not come from places we expect,” he said to reporters on Tuesday night. “It may not come from the outside — it may actually come from within.”

According to its website, the TED Prize is awarded annually to a leader “with a creative, bold wish to spark global change.” Since 2013, $1 million have been allotted to each of the winners, who unveil their plans at the TED conference. Past honorees include former President Bill Clinton, singer-philanthropist Bono, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

In 2016, Punjabi was selected to TIME Magazine’s list of Top 100 Most Influential People, with a tribute written by former President Bill Clinton.

“To spend time with Raj Panjabi is to see up close what happens when someone with uncommon courage and compassion puts himself on the front lines of the world’s most complex challenges,” Clinton wrote at the time.

Here is a brief bio of Panjabi as published on Ted website:

“Raj Panjabi grew up in Liberia, but at age nine, his family fled a devastating civil war and relocated to the United States. He studied hard, and in 2005 returned to his native country as a medical student. He was shocked to find a health care system in shambles. Only 51 doctors remained to treat a population of four million.

Raj founded Last Mile Health to expand access to health services for those living in Liberia’s most remote regions. The nonprofit partners with the government to recruit, train, equip and employ community health care workers, empowering them to provide a wide range of services. In 2016, Last Mile Health deployed 300 community health workers, who conducted more than 42,000 patient visits and treated nearly 22,000 cases of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea in children. The organization also helped tackle the Ebola epidemic in southeastern Liberia by assisting the government of Liberia in its response and training 1,300 health workers to prevent the spread of the disease.

Last Mile Health has created a model that can be replicated elsewhere. As the winner of the 2017 TED Prize, Raj is creating the Community Health Academy to empower hundreds of thousands of community health workers across the world.”


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