Keynote speakers:
Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director, Merck for Mothers
Janine Austin Clayton, M.D., Associate Director for Research on Women's Health, National Institutes of Health

April 15, 2016

The SAIS Global Women in Leadership’s 4th annual conference, “Access to a Healthier World: Sustaining Women, Communities, and Our Future” examined the nexus between public health policies, private initiatives, and civil society. More than 200 attendees and nearly 20 speakers – including experts from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Institutes of Health, and Johnson & Johnson – generated meaningful discussion about how to make the world a healthier place.

Health is a basic human right, yet many people do not have adequate access to healthcare. The conference explored how women are impacting the field of global health and increasing access to care. Leaders and pioneers from the health sector shared innovative strategies that promote women’s health and empowerment.

The morning keynote speaker was Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, the pharmaceutical company’s 10-year initiative to improve the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth. “Ninety percent of maternal deaths are preventable; society just has yet to decide that their lives are worth saving,” Agrawal said.  The global women’s health expert said maternal health care and preventative services for women are an investment in health systems. “Investments in community need to include investments in women,” she said. Agrawal also said public-private partnerships, investments in infrastructure and government contributions will improve global health. 

The afternoon keynote speaker Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health, highlighted her agency’s initiative to ensure all pre-clinical research uses both genders in scientific studies. Male and female sex cells react differently, thus, gender must be taken into account when testing and developing new drugs, she said. Other panels at the conference focused on how linking technology, policy, and advocacy can expand access to care and opportunities for women to have leadership roles in the health sector.

For more information, visit or @saiswomenlead.

Event photos are available at the SAISHopkins Flickr page.


Introductions and first keynote: Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director, Merck for Mothers

Panel 1: "Transcending Boundaries: Linking Technology, Policy, and Advocacy to Expand Access to Care," including experts from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johns Hopkins School of Nursing


Second Keynote: Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health, National Institutes of Health


Panel 2: "Mindsets," including experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Woodrow Wilson Center


Panel 3: "Tools for Empowerment: Translating Improvements in Care into Opportunities for Women," including experts from Johnson & Johnson, Women Thrive Worldwide and Global Health Corps