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Larry Brilliant        

Pioneering Physician and Leading Public Health Expert; Global Philanthropist; Senior Advisor, Skoll Global Threats Fund

A self-described social change "addict," Dr. Larry Brilliant is a pioneering physician and global philanthropist. He is the President of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and Senior Adviser to Jeff Skoll. In this role, Larry develops the strategy and approach for the newly launched Fund, as well as advises Jeff Skoll on ways to leverage his various commercial and philanthropic entities to drive positive change on urgent social and environmental issues. Prior to joining Skoll, Larry served as the inaugural Executive Director of Google.org and, later, Chief Philanthropy Evangelist working with the company’s cofounders to define the mission and strategic goals of Google’s philanthropic efforts. This included overseeing the Google Foundation, Google Grants, and the company’s other major social change initiatives.

Larry is an M.D. and M.P.H. who is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is a founder and director of The Seva Foundation, which works in dozens of countries around the world, primarily to eliminate preventable and curable blindness. Larry also serves as a member of strategic advisory committees for the Berkeley School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley; Omidyar Network; and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Venture Capital.

In addition to his medical career, Larry cofounded The Well, a pioneering virtual community, with Stewart Brand in 1985. He also holds a telecommunications technology patent and has served as CEO of two public companies and other venture-backed startups.

The author of two books and dozens of articles on infectious diseases, blindness and international health policy, Larry has worked at city, county, state, federal and international levels. He was recently a “first responder” for CDC’s smallpox bio-terrorism response effort, he has volunteered in Sri Lanka for tsunami relief, and he has established “Pandefense,” an interdisciplinary consultancy that aims to prepare for possible pandemic influenza. Larry lived in India while working as a United Nations medical officer for more than a decade, where he played a key role in the successful World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication program. He recently worked for the WHO polio eradication effort as well. He was Associate Professor of epidemiology, global health planning and economic development at the University of Michigan.

Larry earned a Master of Public Health degree in health planning and economic development from the University of Michigan, and he received his M.D. from Wayne Medical School. He has received several awards from the Government of India and from WHO. In 2005 he received an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree from Knox College, and he was named “International Public Health Hero” by the University of California. In February 2006 he received the Sapling Foundation’s TED Prize.

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Speech Topics


Changing the World: One Challenge at a Time

Larry’s career reads like a movie script. It starts with him as a young doctor who gets recruited to deliver a Native American baby on the occupied Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay in the late 1960s. He then gets swept up into the literal making of a movie, which involves psychedelic buses traveling cross country with the likes of Wavy Gravy and culminates in a Pink Floyd concert in England. He and some others stay on the bus, and travel for the next few years all the way to India. There, Larry meets Ram Dass and studies with a guru in a monastery in the Himalayans. The guru tells him to join the United Nations and eradicate smallpox. After numerous attempts to join the effort, accompanied with journeys up and down the mountain, he finally gets a UN job and eventually becomes one of the leaders of the WHO program that indeed eradicates history’s greatest killer. The story doesn’t stop there. Brilliant goes on to launch a foundation that eventually helps as many as 2 million blind people regain sight—with the help of the Grateful Dead and Steve Jobs, among others. He also becomes involved in a technology company that provides the core hardware and software for the founding of the pioneering online community, the WELL. Brilliant’s career is in every way remarkable. So, too, are his insights into where the world might be heading. In this presentation, he delivers multiple perspectives: those of a physician, a former CEO, a technologist, and—now—one of the world's most visible philanthropists, to challenge each of us to change the world.

Birds, Bugs, and Business: Preparing for Crisis

The first years of this century have brought increasing shocks—technological, political, economic, and climatic. Now we are facing mounting concerns about a possible biological crisis: an avian flu pandemic. But what is its probability? What steps can we take to prepare? And what are the broader implications for business and society?

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TED 2013: Larry Brilliant reflects on impact of his TED Prize - Los ...

Among those in Long Beach for TED 2013 this week is Larry Brilliant, former head of Google.org. Brilliant was an influential epidemiologist and technologist ...

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