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Dr. Susan Blumenthal    

Former US Assistant Surgeon General & Rear Admiral

Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., served as a leading U.S. government health expert and spokesperson for more than 20 years in the Administrations of four U.S. Presidents. She was assistant surgeon general of the U.S.; the first-ever deputy assistant secretary for women’s health; senior global and e-health advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; chief of the Behavioral Medicine and Basic Prevention Research Branch; Head of the Suicide Research Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health, NIH; Chair of the NIH Health and Behavior Coordinating Committee, and a White House advisor on health issues. Admiral Blumenthal is especially known for her significant leadership in exposing the inequities in women’s health and developing innovative initiatives to advance women’s health and the study of sex differences in disease in the United States and globally. She has also been a pioneer in applying technology to advance health.

Dr. Blumenthal is currently amfAR’s Senior Policy and Medical Advisor, has organized many Capitol Hill briefings on a range of issues related to the pandemic, and established amfAR’s Allan Rosenfield Public Policy Fellowship program. Her work has included a focus on HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s. Dr. Blumenthal convened the first NIH Conference on Women and AIDS in 1985, contributed to the first Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS in 1987 that was sent to all Americans, coordinated behavioral research at NIH on HIV prevention strategies, and established as well as chaired the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Task Force on Women and AIDS.

Dr. Blumenthal is also a clinical professor at Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine, a Senior Fellow in Health Policy at New America, a member of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Advisory Council of the MIT Media Lab. She is currently working with MIT on the Beat the Virus campaign that uses social media to mobilize individual actions to help defeat the coronavirus pandemic. She has been the Public Health Editor of the Huffington Post, the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women's Studies at Brandeis University, the Elizabeth Blackwell Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic, the Lila Wallis Visiting Professor in Women’s Health at Weill Cornell School of Medicine, and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University's School of Government.

Dr. Blumenthal has organized and chaired many national and international conferences and briefings, written numerous scientific articles, edited books, and served as an expert in the media on HIV/AIDS and other health issues. She was the host and medical director of an award-winning television series on women’s health. Admiral Blumenthal is the recipient of numerous awards, medals, and honorary doctorates for her landmark contributions to improving health. She was named the Health Leader of the Year by the Commissioned Officers Association, as a Rock Star of Science by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation and decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal of the U.S. Public Health Service, its highest honor, “for distinguished and pioneering leadership, groundbreaking contributions and dedicated public service that has improved the health of women, our Nation, and the world.”

Speech Topics

The Coronavirus: Preventing and Preparing for Pandemics

Pandemic Flu Preparedness: What You Need to Know

The recent outbreak of “H1N1 swine flu” in Mexico that quickly spread to the United States and to every continent around the world underscores the urgency of pandemic flu preparedness. Since 1997, medical experts have been warning that international travel, a weakened public health system, and antiquated vaccine production methods have made the prospect of an influenza pandemic a matter of when, not if.

In recent years, the “bird flu”–H5N1 strain of the influenza virus currently circulating in many countries has worried public health officials about its potential to develop into a deadly human virus. Already, the virus has “killed more birds than any in the history of the world,” humans do not have immunity, and unlike seasonal flu, strikes younger victims. However, it was a novel strain of flu –H1N1 or “the swine flu” that emerged in Mexico– that became the next human pandemic– infecting millions of people and resulting in thousands of deaths around the world. Although not as lethal as initially feared, it remains a possible threat to the health of people globally. One of the lessons learned from its emergence and spread and from other events like Hurricane Katrina is that the United States is not adequately prepared to deal with public health crises including severe natural disasters, bioterrorist attacks, or a possible pandemic flu.

This presentation discusses what is known about emerging disease threats such as H1N1 flu, what causes it to become a human pandemic, and what steps individuals, businesses, and the government can take to reduce risk as well as effectively respond to such challenges in the future.

Healing our Ailing Health Care System

The suite of healthcare concerns – soaring medical costs, uninsured citizens, the need to protect against and respond to a pandemic flu, natural disasters, and possible bioterrorist threats, to emphasize preparedness and prevention, to strengthen health-related research, and to improve the delivery of and access to quality medical and public health services – are issues at the top of the new Administration’s agenda. These concerns also underscore why strong leadership in the White House and in the federal agencies on science, health, and technology is more important than ever. The US spends 2.6 trillion dollars on health care, twice as much as any other nation, yet ranks 49th on life expectancy and Americans get the right treatment only 55% of the time. This presentation will review provisions of the new health reform legislation and its strategies to ensure equity, efficiency and effectiveness in the US health care system. A prescription will also be provided for how to put “health” back into the health care system, suggesting some innovative health solutions that can be implemented to enhance economic prosperity, national security, and global health.

Winning the War Against Cancer: A Progress Report

Revolutionary scientific advances have sparked transformations in our understanding of the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer,. In the 21st century, we now stand on the verge of even greater discoveries. Knowledge about cancer has been dramatically expanded, the stigma has been shattered, and we now have an entire generation who call themselves cancer survivors. What breakthroughs will the next decade bring? Everyone in the world stands to benefit, as cancer does not respect state or national borders and is a global health concern with significant humanitarian, economic, and national security implications. This talk will explore these issues and will conclude with a prescription for some simple steps we all can take towards a healthier – cancer free – future.

Global Health Issues in the 21st Century: Opportunities and Challenges

This presentation addresses some of the critical health issues facing our country and world today. With international trade, travel, and telecommunications, the world is shrinking, causing increased threats for the spread of infectious and chronic diseases. Blumenthal discusses the double jeopardy of infectious and chronic diseases faced by nations, the impact of technology, and advances from research. The talk underscores the importance of preparedness and prevention as cornerstones to meeting and defeating emerging health threats, such as obesity, pandemic flu, cancer and diabetes, to ensure a healthier future for ourselves and our world.

Critical Women's Health Issues in the 21st Century

Today, the leading killer of women are chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, and in the information age, health is very much a global issue. This presentation will address some of the critical health issues facing American women at the beginning of the 21st century. Women’s health across the life span will be discussed with important new cutting-edge information and the steps each one of us can take towards a healthier future.

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The Future of Health in the 21st Century

Medical science is entering a golden age but the keys to life are not all locked in the laboratory. Technological progress is a critical element of but not a complete recipe for better health. This presentation will explore some of the new frontiers of medicine and science, underscore the power of prevention, address the impact of health care reform and the importance of medical research. Since many health concerns today such as a pandemic flu and AIDS are just a jet plane away, global health issues have significant humanitarian, economic, and national security implications for all of us. This talk will explore these topics and will conclude with a prescription for some simple steps we all can take towards a healthy future.

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