Vanessa Bradford Kerry
Honorary degree: Doctor of Public Service
Dr. Vanessa Kerry has been called a global healthcare revolutionary with uncommon insight into the complexities of global health delivery and international health policy.
The critical-care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital is the co-founder and CEO of Seed Global Health. The innovative nonprofit deploys U.S. health professionals to serve as educators in resource-limited countries to build a pipeline of future in-country providers and educators, strengthen healthcare delivery capacity, and provide a new type of global diplomacy.
Dr. Kerry helped Seed Global Health establish the Global Health Service Partnership, a public-private partnership among Seed Global Health, the Peace Corps, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the countries where the program works to implement this model. Seed Global Health provides technical expertise and much-needed loan repayment to allow these volunteers to serve.
In 2014, its second year of operation, the program sent 42 volunteers to 13 healthcare sites in Uganda, Malawi, and Tanzania, and provided $930,000 in debt relief.
Dr. Kerry, who is also director of the Harvard Medical School’s program in Global Public Policy and Social Change and the associate director of Partnerships and Global Initiatives at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health, initially came up with the idea for Seed Global Health in 2010. She envisioned a national service corps of doctors and nurses to help alleviate the extreme shortage of healthcare professionals in many countries—estimated by the World Health Organization to be 7.2 million doctors, nurses, and midwives globally.
She voiced her idea in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2010, and later that year, spoke about it at a Peace Corps forum, which sparked discussions for the program. Seed Global Health was launched a year later to help carry out the vision.
Dr. Kerry saw firsthand the healthcare system challenges in limited-resource settings during her time at medical school and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. She conducted a study on immunization in Ghana as an intern with the Vaccine Fund of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Kerry later studied and advised on government relations for health and development in Rwanda.
Those experiences, she said, convinced her that existing global initiatives were not adequate to build sustainable, robust, country-led health systems, because there needed to be more emphasis on healthcare professionals.
Dr. Kerry graduated from Yale University summa cum laude and Harvard Medical School cum laude. As a Fulbright Scholar, she earned a master’s degree in Health Policy, Planning, and Financing from the London School of Economics and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.