FXB Director

Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH

Jennifer Leaning - headshot1Jennifer Leaning assumed the position of Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights on January 1, 2010. An expert in public health rights-based responses to humanitarian crises, Dr. Leaning is the FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard School of Public Health and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her appointment followed an international search for a successor to Jim Yong Kim, Director from 2006 to 2009. As Steven E. Hyman, then-provost of Harvard University, noted in the Harvard Gazette, “Jennifer’s experience on the ground in hotspots from Afghanistan to Somalia gives her a unique perspective on the connection between human rights and public health. We are excited to think about the ways in which the FXB Center and its commitment to children’s health will evolve under her leadership.”

The FXB Center was founded in 1993 with the support of philanthropist Albina du Boisrouvray and places special attention on the rights of children. In announcing the selection of Dr. Leaning, HSPH Dean Julio Frenk expressed gratitude to du Boisrouvray for her generous support, adding, “The FXB Center represents an extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of children living in vulnerable circumstances around the globe. I am confident that Dr. Leaning will increase that commitment and strengthen the center’s sense of mission.”

Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Leaning served as Co-Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. From 1999 to 2005, Dr. Leaning directed the Program on Humanitarian Crises and Human Rights at the FXB Center, during which time she also served as Editor-in-Chief of Medicine & Global Survival, an international quarterly. She is Faculty Associate at the Weatherhead Center, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and the Center for International Development at Harvard University, and is the former Senior Advisor in International and Policy Studies at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Dr. Leaning serves on the boards of the Humane Society of the United States, and the Massachusetts Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross. She formerly served on the boards of Physicians for Human Rights (an organization she co-founded), Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Oxfam America. She is Visiting Editor of the British Medical Journal, serves on the editorial board of Health and Human Rights: An International Journal, and is a member of the Board of Syndics at Harvard University Press. She is on the faculty of HSPH’s Department of Global Health and Population, and teaches disaster management, human rights, and public health and policy response to humanitarian crises. She edited a seminal textbook on the topic, Humanitarian Crises: The Medical and Public Health Response, published by Harvard University Press in 1999.

Dr. Leaning has documented human rights abuses and provided medical care and public health services on the ground to refugees in almost every crisis over the last twenty years, including humanitarian emergencies in Afghanistan, Albania, Kosovo, Angola, Darfur, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Somalia, and the African Great Lakes region. She was awarded a Special Citation for Exceptional Volunteer Service by the American Red Cross and the Humanitarian Rose Award by the People’s Princess Charitable Foundation in the UK. One of the first to identify the conflict in Darfur as genocide after extensive field investigations, Dr. Leaning testified before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the United States Congress, and the United Nations on the plight of women in humanitarian crises, particularly in the case of Darfur. She received her AB degree from Radcliffe College, magna cum laude, a Master’s degree in demography and public health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and her MD with honors from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.