Find a problem and solve it, with Dr. Peter Singer, Former Special Advisor to the Director General of the WHO and cofounder of Grand Challenges & UofT Joint Centre for Bioethics

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Dr. Peter Singer, the Former Special Advisor to the Director General of the WHO and cofounder of Grand Challenges & UofT Joint Centre for Bioethics. They walk through Peter’s careers as a professor, cofounder of various organizations, and work in the WHO, using your lived experiences to find problems, and steps to take to solve these problems.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How finding problems and solving them drew Peter into public health
  • Taking risks at the beginning of your career and rethinking your narratives
  • Peter’s three careers as professor of medicine, cofounding University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, and cofounding Grand Challenges Canada and how each career cascaded on to the next
  • What Grand Challenges Canada is and how it came to be
  • Social entrepreneurship and steps to take once you have found a problem and are now stuck on how to solve it
  • Being ok with failure and learning from your mistakes 
  • Using your lived experience as an asset to become a great leader
  • How Peter became the Special Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization and his experience working in global health

Today’s Guest:

Dr Peter Singer has dedicated his career to improving the lives of people by building innovative institutions with high social impact.  

Between 2017 and 2023, Singer was Special Advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization, supporting Dr Tedros to transform WHO into an Organization focused on measurable impact in countries. He co-chaired the transition team; was the architect of WHO’s strategy and its “triple billion” target; and supported strategy implementation of initiatives to speed up the Sustainable Development Goals using data and delivery, innovation, and partnerships. During the pandemic, he was a passionate advocate for vaccine equity.

From 2008-2018 Singer was Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada, raising CAN $450M to support 1000 innovations in more than 90 countries, which have the potential to save ~1 million lives and improve ~20 million lives by 2030.  From 1996-2006 he was Sun Life Financial Chair and Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics. 

In 2011, Dr Singer was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognized for his contributions to health research and bioethics and for his dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries. He received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in Population Health and Health Services (2007), and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (where he was Foreign Secretary), U.S. National Academy of Medicine, and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). 

As Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto, Dr. Singer published over 300 articles, received over $50 million in research grants, and mentored hundreds of students. He studied internal medicine at University of Toronto, medical ethics at University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. He served as Board Chair of Branksome Hall, an internationally minded school for girls, and is currently a Board Member of Grand Challenges Canada.

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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