Xiong’An International Health Forum Salutes to Life!
–SWHF Grants one Impact in Global Health Award and two Rising Star Awards to Special Contributors in Health Sector


“Today, we are going to grant two Rising Star Awards and one Impact in Global Health Award to three outstanding scientists who have made special contributions to life sciences. There are many more scientists like them who are dedicated to fighting diseases, saving lives, and improving health for the people around the world,” said Haoxi Zhang, host of the SWHF Award Ceremony at the first Xiong’An International Health Forum (XIHF), and Secretary General of XIHF Organizing Committee and of the Shenzhen World Health Foundation (SWHF) on November 13th.

Looking back at human history, we have cured many challenging diseases, raised the average life expectancy, and improved living standards, all of which can be attributed to new technologies and the continuous, selfless efforts of scientists, corporations, and physicians. At the start of the award ceremony, all participants shared a touching story of Dr. Pindaros Roy Vagelos.

Dr. Roy Vagelos:

“Guardian” of 500 Million Newborns in China

Dr. Vagelos is a physician, scientist, and philanthropist, as well as a visionary in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. He was the former President of Fortune 500-listed Merck & Co. Now he is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Vagelos has made profound contribution to the Chinese people by helping prevent millions from contacting hepatitis B, a disease that ravaged China from the 1970s to the 1990s. As President of Merck & Co., he made a decision to transfer the most advanced production technology of recombinant DNA hepatitis B vaccine to China at the lowest possible price. And 500 million newborns in China at least have been vaccinated against hepatitis B since then.

Dr. Vagelos also helped West Africa to rid of river blindness, benefiting 55 million people. More recently, he donated USD 250 million to cover the tuition of students around the globe who are pursuing a career in life sciences.

The Drug to Treat River Blindness

a)a) In the 1980s, Dr. Vagelos “wanted to see the drug [ivermectin] widely used,” so he convinced Merck & Co. to make the drug available to the countries in need, at the necessary quantity and no cost to them.

b)b) In the mid-1980s, Merck & Co. discovered the drug ivermectin, capable of killing the parasite that causes river blindness, but neither the patients nor their governments could afford it. To make the drug more accessible to those in need, Dr. Vagelos persuaded the company to provide the needed quantities of the drug to those governments for free.

c)c) In two decades, the drug has benefited more than 55 million people. And now river blindness is no longer a major public health concern in the savannahs of West Africa.

Kathy Edersheim, President of Impactrics and Chairman of SWHF Award Committee, introduced the awards and their selection criteria.

The Rising Star Award to Ms. Fathmath Jeehan Saleem

SWHF announced that one of the Rising Star Awards went to Ms. Fathmath Jeehan Saleem, one of the top scientists in the fight against thalassemia (a genetic defect common in Maldives) and “guardian” of thalassemia patients in Maldives since 1992. The award was presented to her by Michael Møller, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Director-General of United Nations Office at Geneva.

Jeehan Saleem

Born in Maldives, Ms. Saleem was very well educated. She got a Master Degree in Public Health from the University of Otago, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Science from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, specializing in Molecular Genetics, and a BSc in Medical Laboratory Science from the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

In 1992, she started her professional career at the Society for Health Education (SHE), a local NGO, first as a laboratory assistant, then Head of Laboratory Services. In addition to running an efficient laboratory, Ms. Saleem coordinated the national thalassemia prevention program. She also set up the first service center for molecular genetics diagnosis in Maldives, which focuses on analyzing mutations of thalassemia.

Later, she joined the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Maldives as technical consultant on the Youth HIV/AIDS program. There, she helped her country in AIDS prevention and feasibility study, and in developing strategies at the national level and below to expand the coverage of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) services and policies. Then she was reassigned as officer for the National Reproductive Health Program, working with government agencies, NGOs/community organizations, and other agencies of UN to lead and manage reproductive health and ASRH programs.

Jeehan has been a volunteer with the Maldives Thalassemia Society (MTS), a local NGO, for the past 25 years. While working at a medical laboratory, she started volunteering as a general member of the NGO, fulfilling her desire to directly reach patients and parents. Jeehan served as the Chairperson of MTS from 2013 to 2017, and is now the Deputy Chairperson. She was also a former member of the National Thalassemia Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Health.

Jeehan received the National Youth Award in 2007 for her humanitarian work in thalassemia prevention and her assistance to thalassemia patients and their families. In 2012, she was honored by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) for humanitarian and voluntary leadership. And in 2013, she won the Maldives President’s award for her international recognition.

Jeehan has positively impacted millions of thalassemia patients and their families with her public services and professional work, helping them receive treatment and become accepted by their peers and communities. She has initiated many patient-oriented programs that have benefited the patient community immensely. To empower patients, she also sought to raise public awareness of thalassemia through education programs.

Jeehan is actively involved in securing effective treatment plans for patients and continues to improve the quality of care in collaboration with national and international institutions. She is a staunch advocate and promoter of policies that ensure equal opportunities for thalassemia patients.

The Rising Star Award to Mr. Robert Marten

SWHF is honored to award the second Rising Star Award to Mr. Robert Marten who has contributed countless professional resources to private companies in public-private partnerships in innovative projects. This award was presented by Professor Poh Poh Wong to Dr. Yanzhong Huang, Professor at Seton Hall University and Adjunct Senior Fellow of Council on Foreign Relations, who accepted the award on behalf of Mr. Marten.


Mr. Marten is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has recently completed studies as a Council on Foreign Affairs (CFR) Hitachi Fellow in Japan, where he analyzed the role of Japan in global health. He also co-authored an article in the Comment column of The Lancet with 25 decision-makers from 4 UN institutions, the World Bank, governments, civil societies, think tanks and the academics. In it, they discussed the necessity of prioritizing the introduction of sugar, tobacco and alcohol taxes which they called “STAX.” In 2016 and 2017, Mr. Marten acted as a coordinator in the WHO Sierra Leone health system and lead a group that advised the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on strengthening the health system of the post-Ebola country. He was also a member of the Senior Management Team of WHO Sierra Leone. Before that, he worked for nearly six years at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York where he managed more than USD 20 million of grants to implement global health policies, including responding to the Ebola crisis. At Rockefeller, Robert coordinated research and advocacy efforts to incorporate health systems and universal health coverage in the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. Marten previously worked as a consultant for the World Bank, the WHO, and the German Technical Cooperation in Zambia and South Africa. He also worked as a researcher at the Global Public Policy Institute in Germany and served as a volunteer for UN’s HIV/AIDS programs in Vietnam. He has published more than 25 articles in journals including The Lancet, BMJ Global Health, Lancet Global Health, Public Health, Health Policy and Planning, and the WHO Bulletin. Mr. Marten has served on the Board of Directors of the Global Health Council, is a member of the Advisory Council of the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, and is on the editorial boards of Global Health Governance and Globalization and Health.

The first Impact in Global Health Award to Dr. James Wesley Turpin

SWHF is honored to award the first Impact in Global Health Award to Dr. James Wesley Turpin, who has been tirelessly combatting diseases in the Santiago-Tijuana region, to recognize his dedication and contribution to global health. This award was presented by SWHF Executive Chairman Guohui Gao to Dr. Sean Kivlehan, Director of International Emergency Medicine Fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who accepted it on Dr. Turpin’s behalf.

Dr. James Wesley Turpin found his calling in 1961, when he crossed the border to a place several miles away from his lovely home on the Coronado Island. He worked with Maria Mesa as volunteers to run a clinic named Casa de Todos which served the poorest in Tijuana.

Moved by her humanity, he cared for those who had been neglected by the society and devoted all his life to inspiring millions of people across the world to change their lives.

Fifty years ago, while still being a young family physician, he launched Project Concern International (PCI) to fight disease and poverty among the world’s most vulnerable groups, turning a vision of compassion into reality. Dr. Turpin’s goal has always been to work directly with the impoverished and help them lead a self-sufficient life. “I am best at what I do,” said Dr. Turpin.

Dr. Turpin deserves this award. People say that when his work is not needed any more and there are enough people who joined the humanitarian efforts, one of his greatest achievements will be realized and he can move to the next place where he is needed the most. This is precisely the goal of the PCI. Just as Dr. Turpin said, “Every day is day of harvests and we are getting closer and closer to the day that we are not needed.”

Joint Efforts Needed to Overcome More Diseases and Build a Healthier Tomorrow

Without universal health, there would be no universal prosperity. Although we only presented three awards that night, there are indeed many more scientists who have made breakthroughs and contributions in life sciences, including those attending the World Health Forum. The success and lessons of the global health initiatives owe to their collective wisdom and effort.

“It is the mission of all life scientists to build a healthier world tomorrow. We are indebted to the scientists who dedicate themselves to making breakthroughs at the frontline of life sciences. We believe that with our joint efforts, we will overcome more diseases, be healthier, enjoy a higher quality of life, and be able to prevent diseases and manage health more effectively”, concluded ZHANG Haoxi, Secretary-General of XIHF Organizing Committee.