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."