2021 World Cancer Leaders' Summit Speakers

Meet the speakers

A number of high-profile global leaders have already confirmed their participation in the World Cancer Leaders' Summit, including:

Ian Frazer

Ian Frazer

Founding CEO and Director of Research of the Translational Research Institute in Australia

Immunologist and researcher

Suzanne Schaffert

Susanne Schaffert

President, Novartis Oncology

Read full biography

Norman Sharpless

Norman Sharpless

Director, National Cancer Institute USA

Read full biography

Speaker photo coming soon

Suleika Jaouad

Writer, advocate, motivational speaker and cancer survivor

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Surgeon, writer, public health researcher
Read full biography

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer

Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Anthropologist, epidemiologist, and public-health administrator who as cofounder of Partners in Health (PIH), is known for his efforts to provide medical care in impoverished countries. Read full biography

David Simas

David Simas

CEO of the Obama Foundation

Lawyer, former government official and a former politician

Amb. Nancy Brinker

Amb. Nancy Brinker

Founder of The Promise Fund of Florida and Susan G. Komen; World Health Organization's Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control

In 2008, named by Time Magazine one of the of the 100 most influential people in the world; in 2009, honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Read full biography


Holly Kuzmich

Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute and Senior Vice President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center​

Read full biography

Satish Gopal

Dr Satish Gopal

Director, Center for Global Health (CGH), National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Read full biography

Elisabete Weiderpass

Dr Elisabete Weiderpass

Director General, International Agency for Research on Cancer

Bente Mikkelsen

Dr Bente Mikkelsen

Director, Division of NCDs and Promoting Health through the Lifecourse, Regional Office for Europe, World Health Organization

Speaker photo coming soon

Dr Githinji Gitahi

Group Chief Executive Officer, Amref Health Africa

Rifat Atun

Dr Rifat Atun

Professor of Global Health Systems, Harvard University; Faculty Chair, Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program​


Susanne Schaffert | Biography

Suzanne Schaffert

Susanne Schaffert PhD

President of Novartis Oncology

As President of Novartis Oncology, Susanne Schaffert is pursuing a bold strategy to reimagine the research, development and commercialization of innovative treatments that will help improve and extend the lives of people with cancer and related blood disorders.

Susanne has held positions of increasing seniority across a range of business areas during her career at Novartis, having first joined the company as a sales representative in Germany in 1995. The majority of her roles have been in oncology, where she has a passion for making a difference in the lives of patients. Prior to her current position, she served as President of Advanced Accelerator Applications, a Novartis company focused on the development of products for targeted radioligand therapy and precision imaging. Today, she leads more than 10 000 employees in 85 countries working to transform cancer care across four distinct therapeutic platforms.

“I want to make Novartis the place to be in oncology, where individuals can thrive by being themselves, and to keep raising the bar for cancer treatment and care. We shouldn't forget there are people who are counting on us – people who expect us to keep pushing ahead so they can live longer and better lives.”

Susanne is a respected business leader and scientist who was featured in Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women International” list in both 2019 and 2020. She actively mentors women at Novartis and encourages them to seek leadership roles.

Susanne has a background in science and holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Erlangen in Germany, but as a former ballet dancer, she is also passionate about the arts. This dual interest informs her leadership philosophy, which celebrates diversity of thought and ideas as one of the keys to bold innovation.

“Diversity isn’t just about different gender, background and education; it also means different thinking styles, different approaches. If you allow every voice to be heard and every idea to be considered, that’s when teams come up with wonderful solutions.”

Susanne also holds leadership positions in the broader pharmaceutical industry. She serves on the board and executive committee of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and is vice chair of EFPIA’s Patient Access Committee.

Norman E. Sharpless | Biography

Norman Sharpless

Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D.

Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., was officially sworn in as the 15th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on October 17, 2017. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Sharpless served as the director of the Lineberger (“line burger”) Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC).

Dr. Sharpless was a Morehead Scholar at UNC–Chapel Hill and received his undergraduate degree in mathematics. He went on to pursue his medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine, graduating with honors and distinction in 1993. He then completed his internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care, both of Harvard Medical School in Boston.  After 2 years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, he joined the faculty of the UNC School of Medicine in the Departments of Medicine and Genetics in 2002. He became the Wellcome Professor of Cancer Research at UNC in 2012.

Dr. Sharpless is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and is a Fellow of the Academy of the American Association of Cancer Research.  He has authored more than 160 original scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters, and is an inventor on 10 patents. He cofounded two clinical-stage biotechnology companies: G1 Therapeutics and Sapere Bio (formerly HealthSpan Diagnostics).  He served as Acting Commissioner for Food and Drugs at the US FDA for seven months in 2019, before returning to the NCI Directorship.

Atul Gawande | Biography

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH

Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health leader. He is a practicing endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is the founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He is also a founder of CIC Health, which is accelerating the scale up of COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution nationally. From 2018-2020, he was CEO of Haven, the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase health care venture.

In addition, Atul has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and written four New York Times best selling books: Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.

Cyndy and John Fish Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Professor of Health Policy & Management, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School

Founder and Chair, Ariadne Labs
Executive Chair, CIC Health
Staff Writer, The New Yorker magazine

Paul Farmer | Biography

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD

Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer has dedicated his life to improving health care for the world’s poorest people. He is a founding director of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that since 1987 has provided direct health care services and undertaken research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Dr. Farmer began his lifelong commitment to Haiti in 1983 while still a student, working with dispossessed farmers in Haiti’s Central Plateau. Starting with a one-building clinic in the village of Cange, Partners In Health’s project in Haiti has grown to a multi-service health complex that includes a primary school, an infirmary, a surgery wing, a training program for health outreach workers, a 104-bed hospital, a women’s clinic, and a pediatric care facility. Over the past twenty-five years, PIH has expanded operations to twelve sites throughout Haiti and ten additional countries around the globe. The work has become a model for health care for poor communities worldwide: Dr. Farmer and his colleagues in the U.S. and abroad have pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings.

Dr. Farmer holds an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he is the Kolokotrones University Professor and the Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; he is also Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston. 

Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. His most recent book is Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History. Other titles include In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez; Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction; To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation; Haiti After the Earthquake; Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader; Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor; Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues; The Uses of Haiti; and AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, chronicles the development of Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti and beyond.

Dr. Farmer is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, the Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award from the American Medical Association, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and, with his PIH colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Amb. Nancy G. Brinker | Biography

Amb. Nancy Brinker

Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker

Founder of Susan G. Komen and the Promise Fund of Florida, Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, U.S. Ambassador and Lifetime Member of the Council on Foreign Relations

Nancy G. Brinker has been described as the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Her journey began with a promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by this disease. In one generation, the organization that bears Susan’s name has changed the world.

In 1982, shortly after Susan’s death from breast cancer at the age of 36, Brinker founded Susan G. Komen®. Brinker faced an uphill battle: newspapers balked at printing the words “breast cancer”, no one talked openly about the disease, there was no internet and few, if any, support groups. Few treatment options existed for breast cancer patients and limited resources were committed to the disease. Brinker broke the silence around breast cancer, and Komen is now the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Today, the organization has invested $3.2 billion in cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

Nancy’s creativity in raising awareness led to programs that at the time were revolutionary: In 1983, she founded the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® series, which is now the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer. She also pioneered cause-related marketing, allowing millions to participate in the fight against breast cancer through businesses that share Komen’s commitment to end the disease forever. Komen’s unwavering advocacy for breast cancer survivors led to new legislation and greater government research funding. Major advances in breast cancer research have been touched by hundreds of millions of dollars in Komen funding. 

Brinker’s determination to create a world without breast cancer is matched by her passion for enlisting every segment of society- from leaders to citizens- to participate in the battle. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored Nancy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for this work. The same year, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations’ World Health Organization, where she continues her mission to put cancer control at the top of the world health agenda. 

In 2010, Brinker released her New York Times best-selling memoir “Promise Me”, an inspirational story of her transformation from bereaved sister to the undisputed leader of the ongoing international movement to end breast cancer. She was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2008. From 2001-2003, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary and served as U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007-2009 where she was responsible for overseeing all protocol matters for visiting heads of state and presidential travel abroad. In 2008, President George W. Bush appointed her to The Kennedy Center Board of Trustees. 

In 2018, Brinker spearheaded creation of Promise Fund of Florida, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the outcomes and reduce deaths from breast and cervical cancers in Palm Beach County. The Promise Fund is utilizing partnerships, navigation, policy changes, and community awareness to serve the estimated 80,000 women in Palm Beach County ages 18-65 that lack insurance coverage and create a model of care to be replicated throughout the country. Brinker’s work on the Promise Fund has been featured nationally across the U.S. and was also prominently recognized at the Aspen Ideas Weekend among world leaders in Abu Dhabi. In addition to deploying community-oriented patient navigators, in October 2020 the Promise Fund opened their inaugural Mammography Screening Center. At least 1,000 local women will be screened during the first year of the Center’s operation.

Brinker is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has received numerous accolades for her global work, including the prestigious Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service, the Champions of Excellence Award presented by the Centers for Disease Control, the Porter Prize presented by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, the Forbes Trailblazer Award, Ladies Home Journal’s “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century”, and the Anti-Defamation League Americanism Award. She was named one of the 100 Most Trusted People in America by Reader’s Digest in 2013. In 2015 she was inducted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2016 she received the Order of Lincoln Award, - Illinois’ highest honor for professional achievement and public service. Her work also includes advocating for equality in the LGBT community, and she is honored to be a member of the Harvey Milk Foundation’s leadership and advisory board. Brinker currently serves as Global Advisor to HOLOGIC Inc. and is a contributor for Fox News and Newsmax.

Holly Kuzmich | Biography


Holly Kuzmich

Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute

Holly Kuzmich serves as Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute. She oversees the strategy and management of the Institute, an action-oriented policy organization that develops leaders, advances policy, and takes action to solve today’s most pressing challenges. The Institute’s work focuses on education reform, military service, economic growth, human freedom and democracy, global health, and women’s empowerment. Holly also oversees the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a unique leadership development program in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, George H.W. Bush Foundation, and Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation. In addition to her role in the Institute, she also serves in a management role as Senior Vice President of the Bush Center.   

Holly has over 20 years of public policy experience, serving in senior positions in the government, private, and non-profit sectors. She is a veteran of the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and Capitol Hill, where she developed her expertise in education policy. She served in President Bush’s Administration for seven years, first on the staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council and then as Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to that, she worked for two United States Senators on domestic policy issues.  She has also consulted on education and workforce issues with major foundations, companies, non-profits, and policymakers.

Holly is a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow and a member of the Texas Lyceum. A native of South Bend, Indiana, she received her Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University.

Satish Gopal | Biography

Satish Gopal

Satish Gopal, M.D., M.P.H.

Director, Center for Global Health, National Cancer Institute

Satish Gopal, M.D., M.P.H. was appointed Director of the Center for Global Health (CGH) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in February 2020. In this role, he oversees the development of initiatives and collaborations with other NCI divisions, NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, and countries to support cancer research and cancer research networks, promote cancer control planning, and build capacity in low- and middle-income countries. Previously, Dr. Gopal has provided leadership and expertise on NIH working groups, and review committees and boards. In 2018 he was selected to advise the NCI Director on the NCI global portfolio as Co-Chair of the NCI Advisory Board Ad Hoc Global Health Working Group. Before coming to NCI, Dr. Gopal was the Cancer Program Director for the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project-Malawi, in collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health.

Dr. Gopal completed his Master of Public Health in 2000 at UNC-Chapel Hill and earned his medical degree from the Duke University School of Medicine in 2001. He then completed training in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan, lived and worked in Tanzania from 2007 to 2009, then returned to the United States to pursue medical oncology and infectious disease training at UNC-Chapel Hill. After this, he lived with his family in Malawi from 2012 to 2019, when he was the only certified medical oncologist in a country of ~18 million people and treated public sector cancer patients at the national teaching hospital in the capital alongside his Malawian colleagues. He also returned frequently to UNC-Chapel Hill to provide clinical service in the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

As an extramural investigator, his NIH-funded research program focused on epidemiologic, clinical, and translational studies of lymphoma and HIV-associated malignancies in sub-Saharan Africa, and he also oversaw a broad, multidisciplinary cancer research portfolio addressing many of the commonest cancers in the region, including cervical, breast, and esophageal cancer. He has co-authored more than 90 publications and has successfully mentored many U.S. and African cancer junior investigators. He has spoken widely about global oncology, including at the 2018 Fogarty International Center’s 50th Anniversary Scientific Symposium, in Bethesda, MD. He also served as the Associate Chair for African International Sites for the NCI AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC), and had oversight responsibility for African activities of the AMC, which was the first NCI cooperative clinical trials group to conduct multicenter interventional studies for cancer in the region.

Last update: 
Friday 26 March 2021