Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Innovation in Public Health Technology

A Northeastern University Summit
June 18, 2024

envisioning the future

Northeastern receives $17.5 million from CDC to launch infectious disease prediction center

Registration
Closed

This event is at capacity. If you have questions please contact us at:

Renee Wegrzyn, PhD, the first Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) will be a keynote at the event.

Speakers and panelists below.

Urgent and Critical

A system outmoded and broken

The coronavirus pandemic exposed profound weaknesses in America’s public health infrastructure, in particular, our over-reliance on outdated tools and methodologies — some dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic — and the yawning gaps between technological innovation and public health practice.

It also revealed the enormous potential of new technology, from mRNA vaccines to using wastewater data to alert authorities about rising case numbers. We saw first-hand that public health is our front line in healthcare, the sentinel that prevents our hospitals and healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed. It is time to invest in and realign the trajectory of our current approaches to public health to better incorporate diverse expertise and embrace technology.

Envisioning a new future

Join us for our inaugural interdisciplinary summit dedicated to shaping the future landscape of public health technology.

Northeastern University is hosting a one-day, invite-only event to gather engineers, physicists, social scientists, technologists, designers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, public health experts, government officials, industry and thought leaders to help shape how the latest advancements, challenges, and prospects in technology can advance global health.

Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal, M.D. (ret), who is a co-chair and a noted speaker at this event, is a pioneer in this emergent field and has been a leading proponent for accelerating actions to integrate technology innovations into public health practice and research.

…a new multidisciplinary academic field of public health technology should be established to integrate diverse expertise in public health, technology, engineering, data analytics, and design to help build the products, programs, and systems necessary to modernize the nation’s public health infrastructure and ready it for 21st-century challenges and opportunities.

SUSAN BLUMENTHAL, MD — BOSTON GLOBE OP-Ed

The public health infrastructure of the future must be interdisciplinary and multifaceted, more inclusive, and more technology driven, underscoring why a new field of public health technology is needed.

Objectives

Foster collaboration among leaders in public health and technology administration, policy-making, AI research and development, medical technology, and venture capital to delineate the future trajectory of public health technology.

Establish a comprehensive definition of public health technology highlighting its humanitarian benefits, impact on individuals and populations, and the pivotal role of advanced AI and technology in promoting accessible societal health.

Develop a roadmap and framework for establishing a center of excellence dedicated to spearheading public health technology.

Facilitate networking and idea exchange among leaders to inspire actionable solutions and advancements in public health technology, emphasizing innovation, accessibility, equity, inclusivity, and collaborative engagement across community, academia, industry, and government sectors.

Areas of Opportunity

Taking into account the alarming 20-year life expectancy differential among populations groups in our country, there are significant health disparities in America, not to mention around the world. Underpinning all the GPHTI’s focus areas will be an investment and commitment to promoting equity and diversity throughout the public health system.

Social determinants outside of the traditional medical system largely drive health outcomes in America and globally. Lack of education, transportation, occupation, housing, and food insecurity (among others) can create barriers to accessing healthcare and increase adverse health outcomes. This can include improving health access by building cultural competencies, educational resources, and training for the next generation of public health technology leaders so that all people can benefit from health advancements. Further, work is needed to close the information gap between the medical and public health systems by digitally mapping community resources that support patients’ overcoming sociocultural barriers to accessing healthcare and other services.

New analytics that integrate real-time tracking and advanced predictive modeling enhance our ability to swiftly detect, monitor, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. This proactive approach promises to transform the way we mitigate the spread of diseases and minimize their impact on public health.

Northeastern led Epistorm national innovation center funded by the CDC develops innovative methodologies to improve modeling, forecasting tools, and the use of data and analytics to help the U.S. make more informed decisions during future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Access to and analysis of trustworthy data drives public health decision-making. Public health officials require critical data in real time during a public health crisis. Many of the currently used methodologies to collect and analyze that data are outmoded or are dependent upon the cooperation of states and localities to obtain vital information. As a result, identification of outbreaks and trends may be delayed, and diverse U.S. and global populations are often inadequately represented in public health data sets, programs, and solutions.

New approaches for monitoring population health, including the presence of toxins—whether they are pathogens, drugs, or environmental pollutants—circulating across the globe must be developed and widely implemented. Northeastern’s Life Science Testing Center, in collaboration with government and industry partners, has been pioneering new approaches to wastewater monitoring, a valuable tool for tracking trends in infectious disease outbreaks and drug use in communities as well as air quality monitoring.

In addition, the LSTC has been validating new locations where these samples may be collected, from airports to dormitories. These novel types of monitoring strategies will serve as early-detection systems for emerging pathogens and toxins in communities.

Science has revealed significant impacts of the climate crisis on human health. Application of new technologies, including AI in climate science, will lead to improved public health by helping to reduce pollution, ensuring the sustainability of our oceans and waterways, and reducing the spread of disease vectors such as mosquitos.

We must seek new approaches to data tracking and communication to counteract the kind of misinformation that hampers the service delivery and education efforts of public health agencies in the U.S. and globally. And new digital data streams—derived from geospatial and environmental sensors, personal health devices, wastewater surveillance, and population data, for example—can help reveal and quantify the inequalities and vulnerabilities of our health systems and our communities, facilitating targeted interventions and solutions.

These technologies can facilitate more equitable diagnosis and intervention across urban and rural areas. Most importantly, they now need to be aligned with public health data to identify trends and develop solutions at the population level. For example, the mHealth Research Group at Northeastern University invents and validates new systems, methodologies, and algorithms that use ubiquitous, wearable sensors—such as smartwatches and mobile phones—and human-computer interfaces to support health and wellness research and practice.

In the U.S., most individual patient data is stored in electronic health records. Many of the current systems for containing and maintaining this information are outdated and communicate poorly or not at all with other hospital and clinic systems, thus preventing the totality of a patient’s data from being used to make holistic health decisions. Further, paper medical records and fax machines are still used in many places in America and other areas of the world.

In addition to expanding access, new machine learning technologies can analyze patient data and make health recommendations based on health trends observed in individual patients and across communities. It will collect information about the sociocultural determinants of patients’ health from their medical charts and then digitally link patients to social services in their communities. This is critical, as 70 percent of the causes of disease, and 30 percent of deaths in America are attributed to socioenvironmental factors, and yet they have been neglected as a focus of public health service delivery innovations.

Vaccines, a landmark public health accomplishment of the 20th century, are lifesaving tools in preventing disease. This was never more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic: Less than a year after the U.S. locked down in March 2020, novel nextGen mRNA vaccines were developed and injected into the first patient’s arm. Additionally, innovation is needed in advancing delivery mechanisms for vaccines that don’t require refrigeration for rural America and the developing world. The scientists and engineers working on these issues will collaborate with communication professionals and community partners on public outreach initiatives to build trust in the science. They will develop a cadre of community health workers and influencers, as well as social media interventions, that can speed and scale the delivery of vaccines into people’s arms across diverse communities.

To safeguard the health of the public, a focus on strategies to ensure a secure and agile supply chain for everything from chemical reagents to plastic face shields is needed. For example, some supplies such as masks and medications were found to have expired in the Strategic National Stockpile during the COVID-19 and Monkeypox outbreaks. New technology solutions are needed to monitor the supply chain and strategic national stockpile to ensure their continuity and reliability.

It is a sobering fact that, throughout the U.S., one in five people suffer from a mental disorder. The U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy worldwide, and has the highest suicide rates among industrialized nations, particularly among veterans, youth, and marginalized communities. During the pandemic, one out of four children reported experiencing emotional problems. Drug overdoses skyrocketed and are now the leading cause of accidental death.

However, detection of mental illness and effective treatment is delayed in as many as 50 percent of cases. For instance, 21 million Americans have a substance use disorder but just 11 percent received the treatment they needed. And the mental health and substance use disorder treatment workforce is sparsely populated, with individuals needing treatment outnumbering the availability of practitioners.

With injuries being among the leading causes of premature loss of life in the U.S., a focus is needed in the development and implementation of technology innovations to prevent and rapidly respond to injury in homes, vehicles, and workplaces.

By building prevention capacity, innovative technologies can reduce the burden of injuries on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. Further, technology can provide access to educational resources and information to help individuals better understand how to take preventive measures to protect themselves and their communities.

Just as public health focused on reducing motor vehicle injuries during the last century with great success, it is now time to deploy strategies and develop devices that that will lead to reducing injuries in the next generation of vehicles, in homes, and in workplaces to promote safety and healthier living.

Improving maternal and child health is critical for humanitarian, economic, and national security reasons. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, and one in five women will experience a mental disorder during pregnancy or in the first year following childbirth.

Mobile technology can provide health information and provider training, as well as monitor the health of pregnant and postpartum women, track children’s development and growth, and provide alerts for possible health issues.

Remote monitoring tools and text messaging can help ensure pregnant women and children receive regular check-ups and preventive care. Electronic bottles can be used to monitor and track infants’ feedings. Technology interventions can provide support and treatment for new mothers during the post-partum period when they are at high-risk for depression. Digital technology and texting can also provide child development tips for parents.

Additionally, digital innovations to federal food and medical assistance programs including WIC and CHIP will help more women and their children easily enroll in these programs in which tens of millions of Americans are eligible to participate.

With 96 percent of Americans reporting that they want to age at home, and with one out of five Americans being over the age of 65, it is critical that effective, accessible, and innovative digital technologies are developed and implemented to support healthy aging in communities.

By engaging with health visionaries, researchers, entrepreneurs, and community members we can accelerate technology solutions for promoting healthy aging, making it easier for seniors to navigate their homes and communities, thus avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and trips to medical facilities.

Neither field alone — public health or technology — currently has the capabilities required to meet today and tomorrow’s public health challenges.

Co-Chairs and Speakers

This summit will be co-chaired by:

Susan Blumenthal co-host at Northeastern University
Visiting Professor, MIT Media Lab; Clinical Professor, Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine; Former US Assistant Surgeon General and White House Health Advisor

Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal MD, MPA (ret) served for more than two decades as a leading Federal government health official in the Administrations of four U.S Presidents where her work focused on a broad range of public health and science issues facing the nation and world. An internationally recognized medical expert, she was the country’s first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, Senior Global Health Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services and served as a Health Advisor to the White House.

Dr. Blumenthal has also been a trailblazer in applying technology to improve health, creating some of the very first health websites in the US government and the “Missiles to Mammograms” initiative that transferred CIA, DOD, and NASA imaging technology to improve the early detection of breast and other cancers, catalyzing the development of digital mammography, computer assisted diagnosis, and 3-D imaging. She has envisioned a new field of public health technology and has provided national leadership in establishing educational, research and entrepreneurship opportunities for action. Rear Admiral Blumenthal has received numerous awards and medals including honorary doctorates for her significant contributions to advancing health in the United States and globally. 

Carmen Sceppa, Dean of Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University
Dean of Bouvé College of Health Sciences and Professor of Health Sciences at Northeastern University; Faculty Mentor, Network of Minority Research Investigators (NMRI) at the National Institutes of Health; Gerontological Society of America Fellow

Dr. Sceppa is a clinician, researcher, educator, mentor, and leader. Her research seeks to understand the role of lifestyle interventions on advancing overall health and quality of life. She examines health and wellness in settings that promote physical activity among underserved and vulnerable populations, specifically, older adults and the elderly, particularly Hispanics and African Americans. Dr. Sceppa’s research has provided evidence-based information to transform the way we think about healthy lifestyle from personal choice to preventive medicine.

Alessandro Vispignani, Northeastern University
Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor, Northeastern University; American Physical Society Fellow; Fellow of the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University

Dr. Vespignani’s research activity focuses on the data-driven computational modeling of epidemic and spreading phenomena and the study of biological, social and technological networks. He has worked at the International Center for Theoretical Physics (UNESCO) in Trieste and at the University of Paris-Sud in France as a member of the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS). He has also been J.H.Rudy Professor of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University and the founding Director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research and Associate Director of the Pervasive Technology Institute.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving Northeastern University $17.5 million over the next five years to head an innovation center designed to help detect and prepare the United States for the next outbreak of infectious disease, especially in rural areas. Alessandro Vespignani will head “EPISTORM: The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Modeling Technology at Northeasten.

Summit Speakers

John Auerbach

John Auerbach, MBA

Senior Vice President
for Public Health
ICF, CDC
Former Commissioner, Department of Public Health, Massachusetts

John Brownstein

John Brownstein, PhD

Chief Innovation Officer
Boston Children’s Hospital

Jorge Calzada

Jorge Calzada, MS, MBA

Head of Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Ankit Gupta, Ginkgo

Ankit Gupta, MS

Head of AI
Ginkgo Bioworks

Laura Magana

Laura Magaña, PhD

President and CEO
Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH)

Guru Madhaven

Guru Madhavan, PhD

Norman R. Augustine Senior Scholar and Senior Director of Programs
National Academy of Engineering

Mariana Matus

Mariana Matus, PhD

CEO and Co-Founder
Biobot Analytics

Dava Newman, MIT Media Lab

Dava Newman, PhD

Director
MIT Media Lab,
Apollo Professor of Astronautics, MIT

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH

Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH

Executive Director
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC)

Rochelle Walensky

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH

Fellow
Harvard University Business School, Kennedy School, and T.H. Chan School of Public Health; 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021-23)

Renee Wegrzyn

Renee Wegrzyn, PhD

Director
Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H)

The integration and collaboration of expertise in diverse fields is the key to building a human-centered, technology-driven system capable of addressing the world’s most pressing health challanges.

Agenda

8:00 a.m.

Arrival and Registration


9:00 a.m.

Agenda Review and What to Expect


9:10 a.m.

Organizer’s Welcome


9:20 a.m.

Opening Remarks from the Provost


9:30 a.m.

Keynote Presentations and Moderated Q&A


10:50 a.m.

Break


11:00 a.m.

Panel 1: Discussion with Q&A


12:30 p.m.

Lunch


1:15 p.m.

Panel 2: Discussion with Q&A


2:45 p.m.

Break


3:00 p.m.

Panel 3: Discussion with Q&A


4:20 p.m.

Wrap Up


4:40 p.m.

Next Steps and Closing Remarks


5:00 p.m.

Close

Speaker Biographies

John Auerbach is the Senior Vice President for Health at ICF International.  As such, he is ICF’s primary federal health expert and thought leader within the company’s public sector business. Over the course of a thirty-year career, he has held senior public health positions at the federal, state, and local levels in both governmental and non-governmental organizations. 

He was previously the Director of Intergovernmental and Strategic Affairs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serving as the strategic advisor on CDC engagement with the government agencies at the federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial levels, public health partners, and other external partners.   Earlier in his career, Auerbach was the CDC Associate Director and oversaw policy and the agency’s collaborative efforts with CMS, commercial payers, and large health systems.    

For five years he served as the President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), where he oversaw TFAH’s work to promote sound public health policy and make disease prevention a national priority through research, reports, communications campaigns, and government relations. 

During his six years as the Commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he developed innovative programs to promote health equity, combat chronic and infectious disease, and support the successful implementation of the state’s health care reform initiative.    

As Boston’s health commissioner for nine years, he directed homeless, substance abuse, and emergency medical services for the city as well as a wide range of public health divisions. 

John Brownstein, PhD is a Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School as well as SVP and Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. He directs both the Computational Epidemiology Laboratory and the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator.

Trained as an epidemiologist at Yale University, his research has been instrumental in facilitating the control and prevention of disease, improving public health practice, and engaging the public in health issues. As a pioneer in computational epidemiology, Dr. Brownstein’s research is recognized for its translational impact, particularly through the development and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI), data mining, and citizen science. His innovative platforms, such as Vaccines.gov, Global.health, and HealthMap, serve millions annually and have received recognition from the National Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. His research was pivotal in the early detection and response to major disease outbreaks, including H1N1 in 2009, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2015 and COVID in 2019. 

Dr. Brownstein’s contributions extend beyond academia into advisory roles for agencies including HHS, DHS, FDA, DOD, CDC, WHO, and the White House. As Chief Innovation Officer, his efforts have catalyzed the launch of dozens of new startups and unique partnerships with companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber, Instacart, Microsoft, and OpenAI. He also plays a leading role in shaping the hospital’s comprehensive digital strategy, including the integration of AI to improve patient care.  

Dr. Brownstein has been honored with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government to outstanding scientists, the Lagrange Prize for international achievements in complexity sciences, and an Emmy for his contributions to medical reporting for ABC News during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has authored over 300 peer-reviewed articles on epidemiology and public health. 

Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal MD, MPA (ret) served for more than two decades as a leading Federal government health official in the Administrations of four U.S. presidents where her work focused on a broad range of public health and science issues facing the nation and world. An internationally recognized medical expert, she was the country’s first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, Senior Global Health Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services and served as a Women’s Health Advisor to the White House.  Rear Admiral Blumenthal was also Chief of the Behavioral Medicine and Basic Prevention Research Branch and Head of the Suicide Research Unit at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  In 1990, she was a major force in exposing the inequities in women’s health research and services including the lack of attention to sex and gender differences in disease. In recognition of her pioneering leadership, she was appointed and served as the country’s first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health where she coordinated a $4 billion budget across the agencies of the US Department of Health and Human Services, developing many novel cross-cutting initiatives that moved women’s health and the career development of women in medicine and science to the forefront of America’s health care agenda and worked with other countries to do the same. She founded the National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health program at academic health centers across the United States and the National Women’s Health Information Center, the first website and toll-free telephone number in the government for health, as well as appointed regional women’s health coordinators to build infrastructure at the state level. She was the Host and Medical Director of the first television series on women’s health as well as chaired and organized numerous national and international women’s health conferences. She co-chaired a Presidential initiative on breast cancer.  Additionally, Dr.  Blumenthal has established and directed several international initiatives including in the Middle East using health diplomacy as a peace-building tool and was involved in the national public health response to anthrax, H1N1 flu, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Blumenthal has also been a trailblazer in applying technology to improve health, creating some of the very first health websites in the US government and the “Missiles to Mammograms” initiative that transferred CIA, DOD, and NASA imaging technology to improve the early detection of breast and other cancers, catalyzing the development of digital mammography, computer-assisted diagnosis, and 3-D imaging.

Currently, as a Visiting Professor at the MIT Media Lab, Rear Admiral Blumenthal has led innovative projects to apply technology to re-imagine and build 21st century public health infrastructure, to establish a new field of public health technology,  to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, to focus on improving women’s health with technology, and to modernize Federal food assistance programs in which as many as 50% of all infants born in America are enrolled. Dr. Blumenthal also serves as a Clinical Professor at Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine, as a senior fellow in health policy at New America, as senior medical advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and as Ambassador for the Institute Curie in Paris, France.

Rear Admiral Blumenthal has received numerous awards including honorary doctorates. As a leading advocate, policymaker, and national spokesperson on critical health issues, Dr Blumenthal has been named by The New York Times, the National Library of Medicine, and the Medical Herald as one of the most important women in medicine, by the Commissioned Officers Association as the Health Leader of the Year, and as a Rock Star of Science by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation. She has been decorated with the highest medals of the US Public Health Service for “distinguished and pioneering leadership, groundbreaking contributions, and dedicated public service that has improved the health of women, our Nation and the world.

Jorge Calzada is the Platforms Division Director within the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new office within the CDC seeks to advance the Public Health Data Strategy and Data Modernization Initiatives by bringing together technology leaders with public health domain experts. He leads the efforts to improve data quality, manage and orchestrate data lifecycle through DataOps, bust data silos, and advance and support the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Public Health through MLOps.

Prior to joining CDC, Jorge has spent the last 20 years building data science and machine learning expertise for organizations across several different sectors including Energy, Market Research, and Artificial Intelligence Software startups. Jorge received his undergraduate degree in Operations Technology from Northeastern University, a Master of Science in Information Systems also from Northeastern University, and a Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Ankit Gupta is the Head of ML/AI at Ginkgo Bioworks, where he leads the technical and commercial development of machine learning models spanning multiple biological domains. Prior to Ginkgo, he was the CTO and Co-Founder of Reverie Labs, a machine-learning-driven therapeutics company, which Ginkgo acquired in early 2024. Ankit has a computer science degree from Harvard University, where he studied machine learning applied to biology. He now lives in Somerville, MA. 

Guru Madhavan is the Norman R. Augustine Senior Scholar and senior director of programs of the National Academy of Engineering, where he is also the founding director of the Forum on Complex Unifiable Systems (FOCUS) program. He has served as a technical advisor to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the European Union Malaria Fund. Earlier in the medical device industry, he contributed to the research and development of surgical catheters for cardiac ablation and neuromuscular stimulators for improving blood circulation.

A systems engineer by background, he received his MS and PhD in biomedical engineering and an MBA from the State University of New York which awarded him the Edward Weisband Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service or Contribution to Public Affairs. His recent awards include: ASME Henry Laurence Gantt Medal for business leadership, AAMI Laufman-Greatbatch Award for contributions to health technology, IEEE Norbert Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility, IEEE Alfred Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communication, and IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding and the Advancement of the Engineering Profession, and the George F. McClure Citation of Honor for engineering leadership.

He is an elected fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (UK), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. His books include “Applied Minds: How Engineers Think” and “Wicked Problems: How to Engineer a Better World” (W.W. Norton) which have been translated into many languages. 

Dr. Laura Magaña is President and CEO of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). She is also the founding President of the Global Network for Academic Public Health (GNAPH), an alliance of seven regional associations representing schools and programs of public health worldwide. Under her leadership, ASPPH has continued to advance academic public health by mobilizing the collective power of its members to drive excellence and innovation in education, research, and practice. During her tenure, ASPPH has strengthened academic public health research through the Data Center, launched the academic public health leadership institute, and enhanced the voice of academic public health through advocacy. Dr. Magaña expanded the association’s global reach and is leading five strategic initiatives to address critical issues in public health as part of ASPPH’s Vision 2030: Dismantling Racism in Academic Public Health, Climate Change and Health, Framing the Future 2030, Gun Violence Prevention, and the ASPPH Workforce Development Center.  

Prior to joining ASPPH, Dr. Magaña dedicated more than 35 years to successfully leading the transformation and advancements of public and private universities in Mexico; educational organizations in the United States; United Nations programs; and nongovernmental organizations in Central America and Europe. She was most recently the dean of the School of Public Health at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico. Dr. Magaña’s diverse portfolio features 90 academic publications — many of which relate to learning environments, the use of technology in education, and public health education.  

Mariana is CEO and co-founder of Biobot Analytics, the first company in the world to bring wastewater epidemiology to market. Biobot uses cutting-edge technology to transform sewers into public health observatories, effectively using wastewater data to evaluate and improve the health of communities. Mariana holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Wageningen University. She received her PhD from the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT in Computational Biology, where she specialized in the emerging field of wastewater epidemiology. In addition to her doctoral studies, Mariana cofounded the MIT Underworlds Smart Sewers Project, leading the vision and funding for an interdisciplinary research project with collaborators from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. This work led to the creation of Biobot Analytics and set the scientific foundation for Biobot’s wastewater intelligence platform — now serving the CDC and communities across all 50 US states. Mariana plans to expand Biobot’s venture-backed platform into communities all over the globe. 

 
Dr. Matus has been recognized for her leadership and entrepreneurial excellence through several awards. In 2020, she was named to the C&EN Trailblazing Women in Chemistry. She made Newsweek’s list of America’s 50 Greatest Disruptors in 2021, and their list of America’s 50 Enterprising Idealists in 2022. Boston Globe named Dr. Matus #8 on their inaugural 50 Tech Power Players list for 2022, and TIME100 NEXT recognized her as a 2022 industry innovator. Most recently, she was named a 2023 Henry Crown Fellow within the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute. 

Dava Newman is the director of the MIT Media Lab. She holds the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow (a chair for making significant contributions to undergraduate education); and was the former Director of the Technology and Policy Program at MIT (2003–2015); and Director of the MIT–Portugal Program (2011–2015, 2017-2021). As the Director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP), she led this unique multidisciplinary graduate program with over 1,300 alums and faculty advisors from all 5 Schools across the Institute. She has been a faculty leader in Aeronautics and Astronautics and MIT’s School of Engineering for 29 years. She holds a top-secret clearance.   

The Honorable Dr. Dava Newman served as NASA Deputy Administrator (2015-2017). Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate unanimously in April 2015. Along with the NASA Administrator, she was responsible for articulating the agency’s vision, providing overall leadership and policy direction, and representing NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal government agencies, international space agencies, and industry.  

During NASA’s 60-year history, Dr. Newman was only the third technical Deputy Administrator, following in the footsteps of her mentors Dr. Robert Seamans and Dr. Hans Mark, and she was the third woman and first female engineer and scientist to serve in this role. During  her tenure as NASA Deputy Administrator, Dr. Newman made a significant impact on NASA’s human exploration, specifically  developing and articulating the Human Journey to Mars plan, highlighting scientific missions, advocating for transformative  aeronautics capabilities, developing and implementing a strategic innovation framework, and advocating for diversity and  inclusion for NASA and the nation’s STEM initiatives by changing the conversation to include science, technology, engineering,  arts, mathematics, and design, or STEAMD.  She helped realize significant annual budget increases and provided instrumental leadership of NASA’s 17,500 civil servants and over 45,000 contractors in the immediate workforce. Strategic successes included NASA being named the Best Place to Work in the US Federal Government each year, working with the White House and Congress on the President’s Clean Transportation initiative, and leading NASA’s contribution to the White House Science Ministerial focusing on Arctic, earth, ocean, and climate sciences. Dr. Newman provided leadership and oversight for all NASA partnerships, including all US and over 800 international agreements with over 120 nations. She was instrumental in working with European, Japanese, Canadian, and Russian space agencies and parliaments to extend the International Space Station agreement to 2024.  

She developed and implemented a strategic Innovation Framework (Wood, D. and Newman, D. “The Innovation Landscape within a Large Government Agency: Promising Practices from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”, Sept. 2016) for NASA, which served as the first comprehensive  innovation strategy for a large government agency, including best practices from across government and industry; leading  NASA’s novel public-private partnerships (PPP) with several companies to develop new launch, spacecraft, commercial cargo  , and crew capabilities as examples of disruptive innovation during her tenure. NASA currently manages commercial cargo resupply services contracts with Grumman Aerospace, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and Sierra Nevada Corporation,  and commercial crew launch contracts with SpaceX and the Boeing Company for flights to the International Space Station. She helped lead the successful effort to increase funding for commercial crew from Congress, realizing the innovative PPP approach for services, which has transformed NASA–industry business models. For the first time in over a decade, NASA is now investing in blended wing body, ultra-efficient aircraft, and low-boom supersonic aircraft technologies to transform commercial aviation, which is an example of revolutionary technology innovation she prioritized. She framed and articulated enduring questions for NASA, for scientific understanding and for our human culture as  “How did our solar system originate and change over time?”, “Are we alone?”, and “Are there other habitable planets?”. Two dozen scientific spaceflight missions successfully launched during her tenure as NASA Deputy Administrator exemplify the continuous innovation that she championed.   

Dr. Newman is an exceptional leader and advocate for diversity and inclusion and made significant contributions to NASA and the nation’s science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, and design, STEAMD initiatives. She provided critical leadership in the U.S. Interagency Policy Group on Increasing Diversity in the STEM Workforce by Reducing the Impact of Bias led by the White House and U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The impactful final report entitled, “Reducing the Impact of Bias in the STEM Workforce: Strengthening Excellence and Innovation”  provides guidance for educating, advancing, and diversifying a world-class STEM workforce in the Federal Government and Federally funded institutions of higher education, and for sharing lessons learned in the process (Reducing the impact of bias in the STEM workforce: Strengthening Excellence and Innovation, A Report of the Interagency Policy Group on Increasing Diversity in the STEM Workforce by Reducing the Impact of Bias; November, 2016). Under her leadership, NASA convened a MissionSTEM Summit for all NASA grantee institutions as well as leaders of all science agencies (NASA, NIH, NSF, WH OSTP, USDA, etc.) resulting in sharing best practices across government and academia as well as articulating values, responsibilities and compliance in diversity and inclusion to normalize participation by women and under-represented people to bring about excellence in our institutions. She helped oversee the implementation of NASA’s anti-harassment policy and procedures resulting in a new requirements and implementation guide. Recently, she led MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Innovation strategic and implementation plans (2017–2020).   

Her research expertise is in multidisciplinary aerospace biomedical engineering investigating human performance across the spectrum of gravity. She is a leader in advanced space suit design, dynamics, and control of astronaut motion, leadership development, innovation, and space policy. Dr. Newman was the principal investigator on 5 spaceflight missions. The Space Shuttle Dynamic Load Sensors (DLS) experiment measured astronaut-induced disturbances of the microgravity environment on mission STS-62. An advanced system, the Enhanced Dynamic Load Sensors experiment, flew on board the Russian Mir Space Station from 1996–1998. Dr. Newman was a Co-PI on the Mental Workload and Performance Experiment (MWPE) that flew to space on STS-42 to measure astronaut mental workload and fine motor control in microgravity. She also developed the MICR0-G space flight experiment to provide a novel sensor suite and study human adaptation in extreme environments. She is the MIT PI on the Gravity Loading Countermeasure Suit, or Skinsuit, flown on the International Space Station (ISS) as an ESA technology demonstration 2015-2017, and most recently the PI on the Skinsuit experiment on ISS (2023). Best known for her second skin BioSuit™ planetary EVA system, her advanced spacesuits inventions are now being applied to “soft suits/exoskeletons” to study and enhance locomotion on Earth. She has exhibited the BioSuit™ at the American Museum of Natural History, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Paris’ Cite des Sciences et de L’Industrie,  Chicago Museum of Science + Industry, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her latest research targets climate change by applying AI/ML/GANs to accelerate understanding and possible actions to help regenerate Earth’s oceans, land, and atmosphere. Newman is the author of Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design, an introductory engineering design textbook, has published >350 papers in journals and refereed conferences, holds numerous design and compression technology patents, and has supervised >100 graduate student theses and supervised and mentored over 200 undergraduate researchers.   

Dr. Newman currently is on the Board of the Aerospace Corporation, the SETI Institute, the Technology Advisory Group for Lockheed Martin Corporation, Center for Arts, Design + Social Research, an ISU Governing Member, among other advisory roles. She served on the National Academies’ Space Studies Board (SSB) and Executive Committee and two terms on the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB); Co-Chaired the National Academies Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, the Academies NRC Committees on Human Support in Space, Long–Term Utilization of the International Space Station, Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power, and Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration, and the AIAA Guiding Coalition Committee on Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration and New Discovery (ASCEND). She also previously served on the NASA Advisory Council Technology and Innovation Committee. She is a highly recognized speaker on the topics of Exploration, Earth Systems, Human Spaceflight, Innovation, STEAM, and Women in Leadership.  

Select Honors Include: Honorary doctorates from Dartmouth College (2022), University of Minho (2023), and the Royal College of Art (2023), named an Institute of Space Commerce Senior Fellow (2021), Society of Women Engineers 35 World’s Most Influential Women Engineers (2021), named to Seneca’s 100 Women to hear, Honored at International Women’s Day with a Dr. Dava Newman Barbie space doll by Matel™ (2019), elected to the Sea Space Symposium (2019), Lowell Thomas Award–Explorer’s Club (2018), Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (2018-19), AIAA Fellow (2018), AIAA Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award (2018), NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2017), Women in Aerospace Leadership Award (2017), the Aerospace Medical Association’s Henry L. Taylor Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Aerospace Human Factors (2016-17), the University of Notre Dame College of Engineering Alumni Honor Award (2016), the AIAA National Capital Section’s Barry M. Goldwater Education Award (2016), awarded Best Invention of 2007 by Time Magazine, named 100 Extraordinary Women Engineers, an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer, and received the Women in Aerospace National Aerospace Educator Award, among other honors. Newman earned her Ph.D. aerospace biomedical engineering, Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy all from MIT, and her Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame.  

Bisola Ojikutu MD MPH is a nationally recognized physician leader, health equity researcher, community advocate, and expert in the prevention, care, and treatment of infectious diseases. Dr. Ojikutu was appointed Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) in July 2021. 

As Executive Director of the BPHC, the City’s health department, and Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Boston, Dr. Ojikutu manages a budget of $180M and leads more than 1,300 employees working in 6 bureaus and more than 40 programs. Dr. Ojikutu is a key advisor to Boston’s Mayor on health issues and builds innovative partnerships across city departments and within Boston’s communities to positively impact the health of all city residents. Among other public health priorities, she is committed to addressing racism as a public health crisis and advancing health equity. 

Dr. Ojikutu is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a faculty member within the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She also holds an appointment within the Infectious Disease Division at Massachusetts General Hospital and is an adjunct faculty member at The Fenway Institute. She has led research and developed programs focused on increasing access to health care among marginalized populations funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HIV/AIDS Bureau). Most recently, Dr. Ojikutu served as Director of the Community Engaged Research Program and the Associate Director of the Bio-Behavioral and Community Science Core for the Harvard Center for AIDS Research. She is widely published in peer-reviewed journals and is an Associate Editor for the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). She is also a co-editor of two comprehensive textbooks detailing strategies to address the ongoing HIV epidemic with Black and Latinx communities, HIV in US Communities of Color. Among other awards, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Bostonians by Boston Magazine in 2022. 

Dr. Ojikutu also has significant international experience. As a Senior Advisor at John Snow Inc., Dr. Ojikutu directed a $30 million project that provided program management, strategic planning, and technical assistance to improve HIV care and treatment to 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. She is also the former Director of the Office of International Programs at Harvard Medical School.  

Dr. Ojikutu graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell and an Infectious Disease Fellowship at Massachusetts General/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a former Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Minority Health Policy and has a Master’s in Public Health in Health Policy and Management from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases and is a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky served as the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021-23), Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (2012-2021), and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital (2017-2021).  Dr. Walensky is an infectious disease clinician whose research career is guided by a belief that the clinical and economic outcomes of medical decisions can be improved through the explicit articulation of choices, the systematic assembly of evidence, and the careful assessment of comparative costs and benefits. She has focused these beliefs on mathematical model-based research toward the promotion of global access to HIV prevention, screening, and care. Her ground-breaking work and over 300 research publications have motivated changes to US HIV testing and immigration policy; promoted expanded funding for HIV-related research, treatment, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPfAR); and led to policy revisions toward aggressive HIV screening — especially for the underserved — and earlier treatment in resource-limited international settings. In light of these contributions, Dr. Walensky has been an active member of policy discussions at the WHO, UNAIDS, the DHHS HIV Guidelines Committee, and the NIH Office of AIDS Research. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Dr. Walensky served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts until beginning her tenure at the CDC on January 20th, 2021. While at the CDC, Dr. Walensky led the nation — and the world — through unprecedented times, navigating the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic and further facing the largest density of diverse infectious threats likely ever seen in this country. During her tenure, she participated in nearly 100 press conferences and countless media appearances and provided testimony at 17 Congressional hearings.  

Dr. Walensky received her BA (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 1991) from Washington University in St. Louis; her MD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1995) and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health (Clinical Effectiveness, 2001). She completed her Internal Medicine residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (1995-1998) and her Infectious Disease fellowship at the Massachusetts General/Brigham and Women’s Hospital combined program (1998-2001). She is married to Loren Walensky, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist and pediatric oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital. The Doctors Walensky have 3 sons ages 20, 22, and 24. 

Dr. Renee Wegrzyn serves as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), appointed on October 11, 2022, by President Joseph R. Biden. Previously, Wegrzyn served as a vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks and head of innovation at Concentric by Ginkgo where she focused on applying the tools of synthetic biology to outpace infectious diseases. Wegrzyn comes to ARPA-H with experience working for over a decade at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), five of those years as a program manager with a $250 million portfolio, and as a technical advisor to the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). At DARPA, Wegrzyn leveraged the tools of synthetic biology and gene editing to enhance biosecurity, support the domestic bioeconomy, and thwart biothreats. Wegrzyn received the Superior Public Service Medal for her work and contributions at DARPA.

Before joining DARPA, she led teams in private industry across a range of specialties including biosecurity and gene therapies. Wegrzyn served on the scientific advisory board for the National Academies Standing Committee on Biotechnology Capabilities and National Security Needs, among other boards in government and the private sector. She holds doctoral and bachelor’s degrees in applied biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was a fellow in the Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative and completed her postdoctoral training as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany.

Event Location and Details

EXP Building at Northeastern University

Steering Committee

Jared Auclair, Northeastern University

Jared Auclair

Vice Provost Research Economic Development
Director of Bioinnovation

Jared R. Auclair, PhD, is currently the Vice Provost Research Economic Development and Director of Bioinnovation in the Office of the Provost at Northeastern University. He works to strengthen the bonds between our education and research missions by strengthening the integration of work-integrated credentialed learning and use-inspired research, co-creating with communities and partners while expanding our global mindset.

Neil Maniar, Northeastern University

Neil Maniar

Director, Master of Public Health Program;
Professor of Practice

Dr. Neil Maniar is a Professor of the Practice and Director of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. Dr. Maniar specializes in developing large-scale, data-driven public health interventions to improve community health and advance health equity.

David Park, Northeastern University

David Park

Vice Provost of Strategic Initiatives

David K. Park, PhD, is Vice Provost of Strategic Initiatives at Northeastern University where he identifies and develops initiatives that will serve to strengthen the Northeastern University Global Network. Dr. Park initiates, builds and maintains a range of relationships and networks, both within and outside Northeastern University. 

Marco Santillana, Northeastern University

Mauricio Santillana

Director of the Machine Intelligence Group for the betterment of Health and the Environment (MIGHTE)

Mauricio Santillana, PhD, MSc, is a Professor at both the Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments at Northeastern University, and an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Epidemiology, T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health.

Sam Scarpino, Northeastern University

Sam Scarpino

Director of AI + Life Sciences in the Institute for Experiential AI, and Professor of the Practice in Bouvé College of Health Sciences and Khoury College of Computer Sciences

Samuel Scarpino, PhD, is a core faculty member in the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, and an affiliate faculty in The Roux Institute. He holds an external professorship at the Santa Fe Institute.