Today, we’re revealing the next cohort in our special ‘Women Resetting the World’ feature.
These women, from across the globe, are redefining what we know about health and science. From COVID-19 vaccine research, to Indigenous health and pushing for awareness of the health risks of climate change, the women we’ve selected here are resetting the agenda, and improving outcomes for people around the world.
Dr Anna Blakney
An assistant professor in UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, Blakney has spent the past few months informing people about COVID-19 vaccines through social media platform TikTok. “It may seem like a silly idea but it’s actually turned out to be a powerful way to show people what I do in the lab and answer any questions they may have about vaccines,” says Blakney. Before transferring to UBC in January, Blakney had worked at Imperial College London, where she contributed to a COVID-19 vaccine based on the self-amplifying RNA platform. This form of vaccine technology is similar to those used by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, except it is able to replicate itself in cells so patients can receive a lower dose.
Dr. Mina Hoorfar
Has played a key role in research during the past 12 months, heading up a team which seeks to develop a two-in-one COVID-19 viral and immune detection platform. “There is a worldwide diagnostic gap for COVID-19 testing that is fast, reliable and affordable,” Dr. Hoorfar says. “Through our work, we are aiming to develop a wearable sensor that can rapidly detect an immune response to COVID-19 within hours of infection.”
Hailing from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has spent her life as an activist. She’s campaigned against blood diamonds, co-founded a charity to support disadvantaged youth and served as a director at the National Ebola Response Centre. Now, she’s turned her focus to a new pursuit aimed at tackling climate change. As part of the “Transform Freetown” initiative, Aki-Sawyerr is on a mission to “green the city”, planting 1 million trees by the end of 2022 and increasing vegetation in the capital by 50 percent. So far, 250,000 trees have been planted, with Aki-Sawyerr successfully rallying community members to get involved and champion climate change awareness and meaningful action.
Professor Ngiare Brown
The first identified Aboriginal medical graduate from NSW in Australia, Professor Ngiare Brown, a proud Yuin woman, is a founding member of the Pacific Region Indigenous Doctors’ Congress. She is also the founder of a not-for-profit organisation, Ngaoara, which works with Indigneous children affected by trauma. Last year, she was finalist in the NSW Aboriginal woman of the year award.
Dr Kizzmekia Corbett
This viral immunologist caught the attention of the world in 2020, when it was announced she would lead a team of researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, working on a vaccine for COVID-19. She is now responsible for the development of the Moderna vaccine. Referring to Corbett, Dr Anthony Fauci said: “The vaccine you are going to be taking was developed by an African American woman and that is just a fact.”
Indian scholar, environmental activist, and a world-acclaimed author Vandana Shiva has long been recognised as a leader in the field of green living in a country over-burdened by pollution. She’s also a fierce champion of Ecofeminism, a political theory which advocates for a collaborative environmental society whereby women are considered equal and active members. She famously said “We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.”
Dr Wendy Page
Named the Northern Territory’s Australian of the Year in 2021, Dr Wendy Page has worked to eliminate a parasitic roundworm prevalent in Aboriginal communities across Northern Australia. She set up the first national workshop for strongyloidiasis, and has been instrumental in reducing the prevalence of the disease in East Arnhem Land communities. She is also a passionate mentor of young doctors.
A scientist and entrepreneur, Dharmica Mistry made a groundbreaking scientific discovery that has the potential to revolutionise the way breast cancer is detected. She has since co-founded BCAL diagnostics, a bio tech company that’s developing her revolutionary discovery, in order to save millions of lives.
Solomon Islander, Mary Alalo knows firsthand the threat of climate change, having witnessed sea level rise and other climate related disasters for decades. She turned her focus to policy, working with the Australian Government and Oxfam before joining the World Bank’s Community Resilience to Climate and Disaster Risk Project (CRISP) as Project Coordinator. Her role has been to help vulnerable communities (like her own) manage the impacts of climate change and disaster risk. She is a champion of women in these regions, and has been vocal about the impacts the pandemic has posed to them.
Professor Sarah Gilbert
The lead researcher on the Oxford vaccine team, Professor Sarah Gilbert has been instrumental in the global push for the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The professor of vaccinology played a major role in the success of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved for use in many countries. She was recently recognised with the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce’ Albert Medal.