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Sneak Peek! 2022 Aspen Ideas: Health Speakers

Take a sneak peek at some of the outstanding speakers confirmed to join us at Aspen Ideas: Health this summer.

Aspen Ideas: Health is known for bringing together an exceptional mix of visionary thinkers for “can’t-miss” conversations on health’s biggest topics – and our 2022 line-up promises to be one of the best yet. Today, we’re excited to share a sneak peek at some of the outstanding speakers confirmed to join us this summer! From Nobel Prize-nominated researchers bringing vaccines to millions around the world to trailblazing business leaders reimagining clinical trials and health care delivery, get to know these 12 innovators who are carving pathways toward better health for all.

Our 2022 program will feature more than 150 speakers with backgrounds in medicine, public health, research, business, policy, the arts, journalism, and more.  

To join these brilliant minds on the Aspen Institute campus from June 22-25, purchase your Aspen Ideas: Health pass now! And stay tuned for more big announcements in May.


Amy Abernethy is president of clinical research platforms at Alphabet’s Verily, where she has responsibility for the company’s Baseline program and other initiatives to support clinical trials and real-world evidence studies. Before joining Verily, Abernethy was principal deputy commissioner and acting chief information officer of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Prior roles include serving as chief medical officer/chief scientific officer of Flatiron Health and multiple roles at Duke University, where she was professor of medicine. 

Maria Elena Bottazzi is associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology, division chief of pediatric tropical medicine, and co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine. An internationally recognized tropical and emerging disease vaccinologist who tackles diseases affecting the world’s poorest populations, Bottazzi is co-creator of a patent-free, open science COVID-19 vaccine technology enabling the development of COVID-19 vaccine Corbevax. She is a National Academy of Medicine Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine. Forbes LATAM in 2020 and 2021 selected Bottazzi as one of 100 Most Powerful Women in Central America. In 2022, with colleague Peter Hotez, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Rosalind (Roz) Brewer is chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Previously, Brewer served as chief operating officer and group president at Starbucks and as president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, Walmart’s membership-only retail warehouse club, after holding several leadership positions at Walmart. Prior to joining Walmart, Brewer spent many years in management at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, culminating in her role as president of Global Nonwovens Division. She is chairperson of Spelman College’s Board of Trustees and serves on other boards, including Business Roundtable and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Brewer is sixth on Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and was named one of the 25 most influential women by the Financial Times in 2021.

Renée Fleming is an acclaimed soprano performing in opera houses and concert halls worldwide, co-director of the Aspen Opera Theater, and artistic advisor at the Kennedy Center. A dedicated advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health, and neuroscience, Fleming leads a collaboration between the Kennedy Center and the National Institutes of Health. In 2020 she launched Music and Mind LIVE, a weekly web show exploring connections between arts, health, and the brain, with nearly 700,000 views from 70 countries. Fleming has sung for occasions including the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and has been honored with four Grammy® awards, the National Medal of Arts, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. 

Peter Hotez is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, professor of pediatrics and molecular virology, endowed chair in tropical pediatrics, and co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine. He has led the development of vaccines that address neglected tropical diseases and coronavirus infections, with a COVID-19 vaccine scaled for production at India’s Biological E. Limited. A member of the National Academy of Medicine and American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Hotez is past president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene and promotes global health and immunization on major news outlets, countering anti-vaccine and anti-science movements. In 2022, with colleague Maria Elena Bottazzi, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Tom lnsel, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, is a national leader in mental health research, policy, and technology. Insel served as director of the National Institute of Mental Health from 2002-2015. Subsequently, he led the Mental Health Team at Verily; co-founded Mindstrong Health, a start-up building tools for people with serious mental illness; and co-founded Humanest Care, a therapeutic online community for recovery. Insel serves on multiple boards and is an advisor to mental health start-ups. He is the author of Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health and co-founded MindSite News, a digital publication focused on mental health issues. Insel is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has received numerous national and international awards and honorary degrees.

Rob Knight is the founding director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation and professor of pediatrics, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering at UC San Diego. Knight co-founded American Gut Project, Earth Microbiome Project, and Biota, Inc., which uses DNA from subsurface microbes to guide oilfield decisions. His work has linked microbes to multiple health conditions, enhanced understanding of microbes in many environments, and made high-throughput sequencing accessible to researchers around the world. At UC San Diego, he started and runs the wastewater COVID-19 detection program and co-founded the EXCITE COVID-19 testing lab, which performs clinical tests and sequences viral genomes from wastewater and clinical samples. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Microbiology. 

Sandra Lindsay is director of patient care services - critical care at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York. On December 14, 2020, Lindsay became the first person in the United States to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved to the United States to study nursing. Lindsay joined Northwell Health's Lenox Hill Hospital as an oncology nurse, subsequently training as and becoming a critical-care nurse. She was nurse manager for Lenox Hill’s adult medical intensive care unit and then promoted to unit director. In 2021 Lindsay received the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services Outstanding Americans by Choice recognition from President Biden and was Grand Marshal of the New York Hometown Heroes Ticker-Tape Parade.  

Meghan O’Rourke is the author of the books The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness and The Long Goodbye, as well as the poetry collections Sun in Days, Once, and Halflife. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. O’Rourke is a former editor at The New Yorker and has served as culture editor and literary critic for Slate as well as poetry editor for The Paris Review. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and a Whiting Nonfiction Award, O’Rourke teaches at Yale University where she is the editor of The Yale Review

Gitanjali Rao is an inventor, aspiring scientist, author, speaker, and world-wide promoter of STEM. Rao received an EPA Presidential award for her invention of a lead contamination detection tool and is also the inventor of “Epione” (a genetic engineering device for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction) and "Kindly" (an anti-cyberbullying service using AI and Natural Language processing). She has been honored in Forbes “30 Under 30 in Science,” as TIME’s “Top Young Innovator” and first "Kid of the Year" for her innovations and global STEM workshops. Rao authored the book A Young Innovator's Guide to STEM and was appointed a UNICEF Youth Advocate 2021 for using science to solve social problems such as cyber-bullying and to develop solutions for environmental protection. 

Rochelle Walensky is director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Her pioneering research helped advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS and she is recognized internationally for her work to improve HIV screening and care. Walensky has served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted research on vaccine delivery and strategies to reach underserved communities. An expert on equitable distribution of testing, prevention, and treatment, she was professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. Walensky served as advisor to the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. 

Siobhan Wescott is endowed professor and director of American Indian health in the College of Public Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center. A public health physician and advocate for Native Americans and health equity, Wescott’s roots are planted in Alaska Native history, with her family decimated by tuberculosis and Indian boarding schools designed to eradicate Native culture. From the tiny cabin near Fairbanks, Alaska, where she was raised Westcott went on to education at Dartmouth, UCLA School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School. Her work addresses systemic barriers between Native Americans and better health and representation in the health care workforce. An office photo of the dirt road to her family’s cabin keeps Wescott grounded in the challenges facing Native and rural communities.


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