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Triple Jumbo, Triple Threat
Nahid Bhadelia F04 is a triple Jumbo and a triple threat. She works as a physician, researcher, and policy expert. When emerging pathogens threaten global public health, Nahid Bhadelia F04 leverages her unique background in policy and health to enact an effective response.
Bhadelia is an infectious disease physician and outbreak preparedness expert who has been called to assess responses to disease threats and outbreaks all over the world—from the H1N1 flu pandemic to the Ebola epidemic in East and West Africa, to the COVID-19 pandemic. With her depth of experience, she was appointed by President Biden to serve as senior policy advisor for global COVID-19 response on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. Today, Bhadelia is an associate professor in medicine and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Emerging Infectious Disease Policy and Research, a university wide global health security center where she continues to investigate the questions surrounding global public health that have motivated her throughout her career.
Bhadelia earned her undergraduate degree at Tufts before enrolling in the Tufts MD/MALD program. This decision stemmed from her interest in studying the science of medicine alongside the political and economic forces that could determine how emergent diseases develop in different societies. Socioeconomic and cultural factors have been essential to understanding how to effectively respond to infectious disease, she explained.
“This is a concept that became evident through the COVID pandemic.” At the outset of the pandemic, Bhadelia had already amassed years of experience in the infectious disease field. She had run a biocontainment care center at Boston University for several years before combining her expertise in science, health, economics, policy, and advocacy for global work on behalf of Ebola virus responses in East and West Africa.
Bringing her background in policy and medicine to her role on the White House COVID-19 Response Team, Bhadelia contributed to a report on the United States’ pandemic preparedness, which included recommending actions to improve the country’s resiliency, and assessed the development of vaccines and vaccine technologies. With an eye to the intricacies of global public health, Bhadelia also supported the country’s donation of vaccines around the world.
Bhadelia’s multidisciplinary lens is due, in large part, to her training at The Fletcher School, which she says shaped the way she thinks about complex issues related to infectious diseases and how she thinks about approaches to solutions. “Sometimes solutions are scientifically technical. Other times they’re related to building community relationships, or understanding economic forces and why infectious disease threats may occur or manifest,” she explained.
She recalls taking specific courses at Fletcher that impacted her views of negotiations in the context of humanitarian emergencies and the intersection of health and economics.
“My Fletcher training helped me understand the complexity of emergencies and made me, I hope, a more responsible responder,” she remarked.
Although people try to simplify models, she has come to realize that complexity brings a lot more accuracy. “If you can truly understand how the underlying levers work, you’ll be a lot more successful.”
Bhadelia sees the Fletcher community as “a lifelong reward.” While working in policy in Washington D.C., she was happy to be surrounded by fellow members of the Fletcher community. “As I’ve progressed in my career, what’s been incredible is to remain in that very multidisciplinary community beyond the two years you’re pursuing a degree.”
Still today, she remains connected to the Fletcher community. For nearly four years, Bhadelia was an adjunct professor at the school, and she is a senior fellow at the Center for International Law and Governance.