Global Health Special Series: Princeton Fung-Forum Conference Begins!

By Grace Masback

WANT Original Content

The annual Princeton-Fung Global Forum, entitled “Modern Plagues: Lessons Learned from the Ebola Crisis,” will be held November 2-3, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. This global health summit brings together speakers, panelists, and moderators from government, academia, the medical community, media, the not-for-profit world, and the private sector. According to Elisabeth Donahue, the Associate Dean of Public Affairs & Communications at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, the goal of the Forum is “to look at a global health crisis, using the Ebola crisis as a framing mechanism,” with an aim of establishing, “how we prevent such crises from occurring in the future.” They’ll use an analysis of modern plagues as a means of looking at how these public health crises emerge, how the world reacts in productive and non-productive ways, and how experience with previous crises can inform the global response to future crises. Given the diverse backgrounds of the participants, the approach is designed to be inter-disciplinary, looking to draw on public health experts, but also seeking insights from political, economic, environmental perspectives.

The conference will open with welcome and agenda-setting addresses by Christopher Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University, and William Fung, Chairman of Li & Fung Trading, who has helped fund the Princeton-Fung Global Forum. Eisgruber, President of Princeton since 2013, is an authority on constitutional theory and legal philosophy. Fung, a 1970 graduate of Princeton, heads a Hong Kong-based multinational group of export and retailing companies and has written a book entitled, “Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World.” Peter Piot, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine will then introduce the keys issues to be discussed, followed by a panel of academic experts from Oxford, University College Dublin, and Princeton discussing the “History of Plagues.” This panel will be moderated by Sheri Fink, a New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the recent Ebola crisis. The panel will discuss past plagues, how different groups reacted and responded to them, and whether differing plagues demand differing approaches.

The afternoon of the first day will commence with a keynote address by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, followed by a panel on “The Science of Plagues.” This panel will look at both disease and plague prevention and treatment. It will compare and contrast treatment options, ranging from low-cost solutions, such as education and simple equipment (rubber gloves), to the complex and costly medical solutions, such as vaccines. Academics from the University of Ghana and Princeton will be joined by an expert from the Centers of Disease Control. Moderating this panel will be Pam Belluck, who shared the Pulitizer Prize with Sheri Fink (and others) reporting for the New York Times on the Ebola crisis.

The last panel on the Forum’s first day, “Disease and the Information Highway,” will be moderated by NPR’s “On the Media” host Brooke Gladstone. This panel will look at how information technology can be used to prevent or address a global health crisis, as well as deal with the aftermath and recovery from it. The panel brings together communications experts from a variety of organizations. A keynote speech by Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization will close out the first day. Chan, who has been in her role since 2006, has dealt with multiple pandemics in her distinguished career.

Day two will begin with a keynote address by Jeremy Farrar, the Director of the Wellcome Trust and a professor of tropical Medicine at Oxford. Fortune Magazine called him one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” for his work on infectious diseases. His address will be followed by a panel on “The Politics of Plagues” featuring a group of Princeton professors from different perspectives as well as the CEO of a non-governmental organization working with the poor. Moderator of that panel will be Joel Achenbach, a staff writer at the Washington Post. The morning will conclude with a keynote address by Raj Panjabi, the co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, a program that trains local villagers to be professional health workers. He is also an associate physician at Harvard Medical School.

The afternoon will begin with a panel, “Follow the Money,” that will look at the issues of who funds relief efforts and how money is allocated, including looking at what infrastructure is best for distributing aid. Washington Post London Bureau chief Griff Witte will moderate the panel, which includes experts from international relief organizations and professors from Oxford and Princeton, including Angus Deaton, who recently won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

The day’s last panel, “After the Plague,” will pull together the threads from the Forum’s panels and keynotes, seeking to identify lessons learned, predictive models needed, and policy reforms that should be put into place. The role of academia will be explored, including identification of a potential role for Princeton in preventing and dealing with the next crisis. This panel will be moderated by Cecilia Rouse, dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. Others on the panel include Princeton professors and the WHO representative from Liberia.

This will conclude the very comprehensive and ambitious Princeton-Fung Forum. With excellent pre-work already disseminated by the Forum’s website, I expect that it generate significant attention to a range of important issues, help identify workable solutions to the issues, and forge alliances for the future.

Photo Credit: Princeton University

See more about the conference here. 

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

There is one comment

  1. Stanley J. Vogelsang

    Thanks for the heads up on the Princeton-Fung Global Forum. I’m interested in global health issues and was greatly concerned about the reaction globally to the Ebola crisis. I will follow the Forum closely via WANT and the Global Forum website. Thank you.

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