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May 23, 2016

Gates Foundation CEO Marks Anniversary With Media Blitz

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke to several media outlets about the grant maker’s global health programs, what she sees as the philanthropy's biggest challenges, and numerous other topics and trends. The interviews came ahead of the release of a letter marking the start of her third year leading the world’s largest private foundation. 

Ms. Desmond-Hellman, an oncologist and former chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco, told The Wall Street Journal that the Ebola and Zika epidemics are forcing governments, businesses, and charities to work together to create new technologies and strategies to combat infectious diseases. She cited a $52 million grant from the foundation to a German biopharmaceutical company that is developing vaccine technologies that would tell a person's body to build its own defenses against infections.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Desmond-Hellmann discussed the foundation's drive to curb smoking in the Philippines and its plans to morality among children under the age of 5 by half by 2030. She told The Seattle Times she wants the organization be more transparent about its activities and more responsive to criticism of its work. She said one lesson the foundation took from the controversy over the Common Core education standards, which is strongly backed, is that teachers need more materials and other support tailored to the new curriculum.

Asked by Tech insider to name her most important accomplishment at the foundation to date, Ms. Desmond-Hellmann said it has been changing expectations about reducing poverty."Some people felt like global poverty was inevitable, intractable, and not open to getting better," she said. "I think the Foundation's optimism, sense of purpose, sense of urgency, and use of analytics are profoundly important in changing expectations and pace in work on global health and global development.”

Read The Chronicle of Philanthropy's interview with Ms. Desmond-Hellmann about what she considers the Gates Foundation's successes and shortcomings and how it is working to address criticism and promote its impact.