Jeffrey L. Sturchio, a longtime leader at Merck & Co. whose quiet diplomacy helped build programs treating more than 100,000 AIDS patients in Botswana as well as protecting millions of Africans from river blindness, has been named President and CEO of the Global Health Council, the Council's board of directors announced today.
Sturchio, 56, of Martinsville, N.J., succeeds the Council's former President and CEO, Nils Daulaire, who stepped down in February 2009 after leading the organization for a decade. The Council, which was created in 1972, is the world's largest membership alliance dedicated to saving lives by improving health around the globe.
"I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the Global Health Council," Sturchio said. "Global health is everybody's business. We need all hands on deck to save lives, and I can't think of another organization better positioned to build the broad coalitions necessary to do the job right, by drawing on the collective expertise of the Council's diverse membership."
Sturchio worked for nearly two decades at Merck, starting as the company's first corporate archivist and ending last year as vice president, corporate responsibility, as well as President of The Merck Company Foundation. In his last position, he managed the company's philanthropic efforts, including the Merck Mectizan Donation Program and its global HIV/AIDS access programs. For the last two years, he also has served as Chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa, an organization of 180 U.S. companies that comprise the majority of US private sector investments in Africa.
"The Global Health Council's board recognizes that we are entering a new era for global health, and we see Jeff as an ideal fit for these challenging and exciting times," said Susan Dentzer, chair of the board of directors. "We want to take the Council beyond its longtime strong base in the United States and to have it become a truly global Council. Jeff's experience and knowledge in forming partnerships among governments, private sector groups and NGOs, especially in Africa, will be invaluable for the organization."
Several global health leaders welcomed Sturchio's selection. "He brings his strong knowledge of science and experience with a broad range of stakeholders to the position,'' said Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. "I am looking forward to working with Jeff and the Council to ensure that health remains high on the international agenda."
Tachi Yamada, President of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Sturchio "has been instrumental in brokering dialogues that increase access to lifesaving medicines in the developing world. He will provide outstanding leadership to the Global Health Council in its quest to improve the health and lives of people everywhere."
And Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: "Jeff Sturchio has been one of the champions of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. His leadership in increasing access to treatment as well as passion for HIV prevention has saved lives.''
In the early part of this decade, when AIDS activists fought for greater access to life-extending anti-retroviral drugs, and when fewer than 50,000 Africans were receiving those drugs, Sturchio helped start the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP). The partnerships, which involved the government of Botswana, the Gates Foundation, Merck, and later Harvard University, has since offered treatment to 123,000 people and prevention and care services to hundreds of thousands more in Botswana. At the time the partnerships began in 2000, the involvement of a pharmaceutical company in helping to start an AIDS treatment program was more than just a welcome development; it was seen as critical. Sturchio helped conceive and lead Merck's participation in the project.
"He was on the cutting edge in a very creative way in the pharmaceutical industry that led to a radical change in the way that they operated," said Mark Dybul, the former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator who now is a distinguished scholar and co-director of Georgetown University's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. "Merck was among the first to support antiretroviral drug distribution in Africa. No one was doing treatment then, not in 2000. Many people were saying it wasn't possible to treat people in Africa, but here this partnership in Botswana was doing it."
Dybul said Sturchio possesses a talent to "get people to work with each other. He has a real openness to ideas and thoughts and concepts. He just has a great ability to be trusted by people because he's so open. He has great humility."
Helene Gayle, the President and CEO of CARE and formerly the head of the Gates Foundation's AIDS, tuberculosis and reproductive health programs, said Sturchio acted as a "great consensus builder'' in Botswana. "It was a complex partnership to have a pharmaceutical company, a large foundation, the government of Botswana, and Harvard University," said Gayle, who is also a former Global Health Council board member. "What Jeff demonstrated was the ability to bring people together and help build consensus. He came into it without any preconceived agenda - other than to get the work done."
Jim Yong Kim, the Harvard professor who has been a leading global health activist and innovator over the past two decades and who will become President of Dartmouth College on July 1, said he has worked with Sturchio for years and seen him scores of times "in the farthest reaches of the world" at global health meetings. At those meetings, Kim said, Sturchio consistently "expressed his commitment to improving the health of the poorest of the poor. His commitment has been remarkable."
Kim also said that he believed Sturchio's background at Merck would serve as a positive springboard to leading the Global Health Council. "Merck has a long and proud history of making extraordinary contributions to global health, and Jeff himself has been tireless in his efforts to making sure people have had access to Merck products in all parts of the world," Kim said.
One example has been the effort to control onchocerciasis, which is more popularly known as river blindness. The Mectizan donation program, which started in 1987, is regarded as one of the most successful public/private health collaborations in the world. Merck has donated nearly 700 million drug treatments to control river blindness in 33 countries. Uche Amazigo, director of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control, based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, said Sturchio offered unwavering support for the fight against river blindness.
"His heart is with the poor," she said. "He feels for them. Jeff spent his life in Merck helping millions of African poor people, ensuring that Mectizan treatment was never in shortage. For me, any group that brings Jeff on board has a pearl because he is going to combine science with humanity.''
Daulaire, the former longtime leader of the Global Health Council, said Sturchio's experience extends well beyond philanthropy. Daulaire said that his successor has long been working on an area critical to the Council - building health systems in developing countries.
"He really is in a good position to lead that process forward," Daulaire said. "He understands health systems from three perspectives - government, civil society, and the private sector. Although he comes from the private sector, he has worked across those three elements. He stands on high ground in terms of seeing the big picture. I anticipate that he will be able to bring the various actors together in new and productive ways to help build strong health systems around the world."