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Geopolitics, Leadership and the Global Response to COVID-19: A Conversation with Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan

October 19, 2020


Vas Narasimhan, CEO, Novartis

Jeremy Shiffman, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Health Policy, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Yusra Shawar, Assistant Scientist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Opening remarks by Cinnamon Dornsife, Practitioner in Residence, Johns Hopkins SAIS

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute Brzezinski Current Issues Seminar series welcomed Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis for a discussion on the global response to COVID-19.

The conversation touched on the unique cooperation among pharmaceutical companies following the outbreak of COVID-19. The panelists emphasized a greater need for global cooperation and institutionalization, and the fundamental role the World Health Organization can play in disease prevention. The participants also reflected on the unfortunate lack of adequate pandemic monitoring, which initially began to be defunded between 2013 – 2017. The panelists noted how non-state actors such as the Gates Foundation, Civil Society, and positive minded individuals can help lead the changes necessary in combating the virus. In addition, telemedicine, mobile therapy, and global supply-chain robustness will be positive outgrowths from the crisis. 

On the topic of leadership, the panelists believed that a sense of purpose, curiosity, and autonomy was necessary to fostering the workplace of tomorrow, as well as helping to birth the success of companies and individuals in tandem. They reiterated that good leadership is making others feel adequate and motivated. They encouraged students to practice self-awareness, remember that simplicity is the key to happiness, and that removing obstacles is more impactful than micro-managing individual’s actions and lives.