From Maxwell Perspective...

Making History

Gabrielle Fitzgerald ‘97 MPA
Gates Foundation Global Health Program

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Gabrielle Fitzgerald
Gabrielle Fitzgerald, inset and (at left) administering albendazole to a child in Rwanda

“People are often unaware of public health issues,” says Gabrielle Fitzgerald, deputy director of policy and advocacy for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “When you inform people and touch their convictions,” she says, “they’re often more willing, even eager, to become involved. When we conduct public education campaigns on health issues, we see donations to our grantees skyrocket. The challenge lies in creating awareness that leads to commitment.”

"The challenge lies in creating awareness.”The foundation is not an NGO, but a philanthropic organization that partners with NGOs and others to advance innovations in health, development, and learning. It has made substantial grants to organizations in South and East Asia, Africa, and the United States. Fitzgerald and her team are charged with three objectives: to ensure that policy makers and opinion leaders see the value of investing in global health; to use the foundation’s “convening ability” to bring people together to advance mutual interests; and to decide how to use its leadership strategically to advance its agenda—to decide, for example, how an appearance by Melinda Gates on 60 Minutes could fit in with its overall strategy.

Before joining the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fitzgerald spent five years with the U.S. Agency for International Development, involved in HIV/AIDS and emergency programs. Before that, she was the communications director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees, and a fellow with USAID in Zambia.

“Zambia was my first exposure to international development issues,” she says; “and when I returned to the United States, I was certain that I wanted to use my political and communications background to draw attention to development issues. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given me that opportunity.”

— Tom Raynor

Tom Raynor is a freelance writer based in Syracuse. He holds an MIA from Columbia University.
This article appeared in the fall 2010 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2010 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail