Leaving No One Behind: A Systems Approach to Improving Pandemic Communications


Start Date and Time: Tue, May 23, 2023, 9:00 am ET

End Date and Time: Tue, May 23, 2023, 4:00 pm ET


CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (55 West 125th Street, New York, NY)
Registration Required

Pandemics are complex, dynamic, and multi-faceted phenomena that require a coordinated and integrated response. A systems approach to improving pandemic communications is important as it recognizes the interconnectedness of various elements of the system, such as healthcare providers, public health officials, policymakers, media, and the general public. It also involves identifying and addressing the various factors that contribute to successful communication, such as trust, transparency, accuracy, accessibility, and cultural sensitivity.

Join us for this day long convening where we will bring together a diverse group of communications professionals to learn from experts in pandemic communications. These experts will explore what a systems approach is and how it relates to this specific context. Through a panel discussion, facilitated breakout sessions, and group report outs, attendees will gain further insight and understanding into the four parts of the communications system.

The Convening will then proceed to a Systems Mapping Exercise where all attendees will contribute their ideas and knowledge collaboratively to create a more thorough, detailed representation of the constituent parts of the communications system and how exactly these four parts interact with each other during a pandemic. This exercise will generate solutions and recommendations that are intended to foster public trust and understanding; ultimately, the mapping exercise will help to build a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy to counter confusion, misinformation, and disinformation.

Who’s this for? Public Information Officers, Journalists, Reporters, Researchers, Academics, Community Leaders, and anyone who can play a role in improving pandemic communications. This is an invite-only event.

Featured Speakers

Céline Gounder, MD

CBS News Medical Contributor and a Senior Fellow and Editor-at-Large for Public Health at the KFF and KFF Health News

Bio & Links

Trained at Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Washington, and Harvard University, Gounder is an internationally renowned internist, infectious disease specialist, and epidemiologist. She is a CBS News Medical Contributor and a Senior Fellow and Editor-at-Large for Public Health at the KFF and KFF Health News. Dr. Gounder is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. She cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center. She is one of the world’s leading experts in science, medicine, and public health communication.

Gounder advises local and national policymakers on issues of public health, including epidemics and pandemics, the health impacts of climate change, mental health, drug overdose, and disinformation.

Prior to joining CBS News, Gounder was a CNN Medical Analyst and a guest expert on numerous other networks. She’s written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. She’s a frequent guest on NPR and other radio and podcast programs, including two she produces: “American Diagnosis” and “Epidemic.”

Between 2017 and 2018, Gounder cared for patients at Indian Health Service and tribal health facilities. In early 2015, Gounder spent two months volunteering as an Ebola aid worker in Guinea. She also interviewed locals to understand how the crisis was affecting them.

Early in her career, Gounder studied HIV and tuberculosis in Brazil and southern Africa. While on faculty at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Gounder was the Director for Delivery for the Gates Foundation-funded Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS/TB Epidemic. She went on to serve as Assistant Commissioner of Health for Tuberculosis at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

She received her BA in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, her Master of Science in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and her MD from the University of Washington. Dr. Gounder was an intern and resident in Internal Medicine at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital, and a post-doctoral fellow in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University.

Olusimbo Ige, MD

Managing Director of Health Care and Public Health System transformation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Bio & Links

Dr. Olusimbo Ige is the Managing Director of Health Care and Public Health System transformation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. RWJF is the largest philanthropy in America dedicated solely to health. Dr. Ige leads efforts to address the policies, practices, and norms in health and health care systems that perpetuate racial inequities in health. Prior to this Dr. Ige was the Assistant Commissioner at the Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness (CHECW) at the New York City Department of Health. NYCDOH is one of the largest public health agencies in the world and one of the nation’s oldest public health agencies. Dr. Ige led the vaccine equity work at the NYCDOH as part of the COID-19 response and received the Champion of Public Health award for this work. She has over 18 years’ experience working to advance health equity.  Dr Ige is a public health doctor, with graduate degrees in epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health.  

Maura Kennelly, MPH

Deputy Commissioner of External Affairs at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Bio & Links

Maura Kennelly is Deputy Commissioner of External Affairs at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene overseeing communications and government affairs. Prior to her current position, Maura was the Executive Director of Intergovernmental Affairs (2015 – 2019) where she advanced the Department’s legislative and budget priorities at the city, state and federal levels; and the Director of Policy for the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention & Tobacco Control (2011 – 2015) where she oversaw the chronic disease and obesity-prevention policy agenda for the agency focusing on food policy, including the development of the City’s Sugary Drink Portion Size and Sodium Labeling regulations.  Ms. Kennelly is a graduate of Emory University and received her MPH from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Joe Smyser, PhD, MSPH

CEO of The Public Good Projects (PGP)

Bio & Links

Dr. Smyser has created the strategies for several of the world’s largest and most successful behavior change campaigns and programs. The methodologies he has championed, such as media monitoring for disease surveillance, disseminating health information through community influencers and organizations, and rigorous peer-review regardless of a program’s scale, are now widely recognized as best practices.

He is an advocate for leveraging the tools and techniques of private industry for public health, increasing public-private partnerships, and fostering private industry innovation for the public good.

Dr. Smyser’s academic background includes a PhD and masters in public health and a postdoc at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through its evaluation fellowship. Additionally, he interned at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration within the Office of International Programs. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, having served in Swaziland.

A regular and dynamic speaker and trainer, Dr. Smyser frequently delivers keynote addresses and contributes as a panelist with other experts. He has been a full-time instructor at Columbia University and San Diego State University.


8:30-9:00Registration & Breakfast
9:00-9:30Opening Remarks & Overview of a Systems Approach for Pandemic Communications & Key Issues
9:30-10:45Panel: Parts of the Communications System
10:45-10:55Break & Move to Breakout Rooms
10:55-12:00Breakout Sessions: Delving Deeper into the System Parts
12:30-1:15 Beginning to Build the Systems Map: Report Outs from Breakout Sessions
1:15-2:15Augmenting the Systems Map
2:30:3:30Synthesis of Insights & Recommendations
3:30-3:45Closing Remarks & Next Steps