Appointment of Inaugural Director of the Dahdaleh Institute


Lisa Philipps, vice-president academic and provost, Robert Haché, vice-president research and innovation and Paul McDonald, dean, Faculty of Health, issue the following announcement to the York University community:

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. James Orbinski as the inaugural Director of the Dahdaleh Global Health Research Institute (DGHRI).  The Institute was established in 2015 as a result of an endowment from Victor Phillip Dahdaleh, a UK-based Canadian business leader and York alumnus.  The Institute will be a leader and catalyst in addressing global health issues, reflecting York University’s commitments to equity and interdisciplinary approaches, and drawing on research strengths in the field of global health from across the University.  For more information about the Institute see:

Professor Orbinski will take up the position of Director of DGHRI on September 1, 2017; he will hold a faculty appointment in the School of Health Policy and Management in the Faculty of Health.  A champion of health and humanitarianism throughout his career, he has extensive leadership, advocacy, and research experience in the field of global health, and enjoys a national and international reputation.  He currently holds the position of professor and CIGI Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University; and at the University of Toronto, he is a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Munk School of Global Affairs.  He holds a BSc from Trent University, an MD degree from McMaster University, and a Masters degree in international relations from the University of Toronto, and is a member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.  His current research interests focus on the health impacts of climate change, humanitarianism, intervention strategies around emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (such as HIV and EBOLA), and global health governance.  He is the author of an award-winning and best-selling book, An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century.

Dr. Orbinski gained extensive field experience as a founding member of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Canada (MSF), including serving as Head of Mission in Goma, Zaire in 1996-97 during the refugee crisis, as Head of Mission in Kigali during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 – a contribution for which he was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross for his medical humanitarian leadership – and as medical co-ordinator in Afghanistan in 1994, and in Somalia during the civil war and famine of 1992-93.   He was elected international president of MSF in 1998, a position he held until 2001.  He launched its Access to Essential Medicines Campaign in 1999, the same year in which MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize for its pioneering approach to bearing witness and to medical humanitarianism.  As international president of MSF, he represented the organization to governments around the world, and in numerous humanitarian emergencies, as well as at the UN Security Council, the WHO, and the UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency).

From 2001 to 2004, Dr. Orbinski co-chaired MSF’s Neglected Diseases Working Group, which created and launched the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), a global not-for-profit research and advocacy consortium that researches and develops medicines and diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases. The DNDi has since released six new treatments for tropical diseases, and has 15 other medicines under development.   In 2004, he became a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and a faculty member in both medicine and political science at the University of Toronto.  In the same year, he co-founded Dignitas International, a hybrid academic non-government organization focused on addressing chronic and extreme humanitarian vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and to improving community-based health systems and the quality of patient care through research and medical care.  In partnership with the Malawian Ministry of Health, it has started more than 250,000 children and adults on full treatment for HIV/AIDS.  In partnership with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and the Ontario government, Dignitas has recently established an Aboriginal Health Partners Program focused on the health needs of First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario.  In 2016-2017 Dr. Orbinski is a Fulbright Visiting Professor to the University of California-Irvine.  He is working with scholars there and in Malawi to develop interdisciplinary models and adaptation interventions for the health impacts of climate change.

Dr. Orbinski has been a member of several bodies committed to improving health equity both in Canada and around the world, including the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Climate Change and Health Council, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences 2011 Expert Panel on Canada’s Strategic Role in Global Health.

He is also the recipient of numerous awards and honours in recognition of his contributions to global health and humanitarianism, including the Order of Ontario, the Order of Canada, the Walter S. Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award, and the Teasdale Corti Award of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

We look forward to welcoming Dr. Orbinski to York University, and to his leadership as the inaugural director of DGHRI in advancing York’s research and impact in the field of global health, both locally and internationally.