Global Health Leader Started with Science

Soon after Tej Nuthulaganti, the global director of the Health Workforce division for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, arrived in Liberia on the West Coast of Africa in 2014, the Ebola virus was discovered. “It was a very trying time,” said Nuthulaganti CCAS’07, GCS’08, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology from Rutgers University–Camden. “It started with one suspected case. Quickly a few more cases came up with the same signs and symptoms and the patients had died. The results came back from international lab tests to confirm that it was Ebola. By that time, there were more than 50 cases. It was clear it was an epidemic and it was spreading everywhere. There was a lot of panic in the country.”

Nuthulaganti said the global response to the epidemic was slow and many international aid workers fled the country, but the Clinton Health Access Initiative stayed. “We continued our planning work to scale up the health workforce in Liberia and the local Clinton Health Access Initiative office transitioned to Ebola response,” he said.

The outbreak lasted more than a year and killed thousands. Nuthulaganti worked in Liberia for more than three years on workforce development and served as a strategic adviser to then-Liberian Health Minister Bernice Dahn. In 2018 he moved back to Boston, where he continues his global health work overseeing programs in six countries.

Nuthulaganti credits his career to the education he received at Rutgers–Camden, where he worked as a research assistant in university laboratories, as well as leadership experience he gained volunteering for Rutgers University’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association. He later oversaw all of the association’s undergraduate chapters nationally as an elected leader. “Those formative experiences at Rutgers–Camden have really shaped who I am today professionally,” Nuthulaganti said. “I’m trying to interlink the ideas of how science, education, and policy can really impact people’s lives and how we as citizens of a resource-rich country have a moral imperative to act and contribute what we can to health equity and justice.”

After finishing his degrees at Rutgers–Camden, the Philadelphia native who attended high school in southern New Jersey earned a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University. He later served as a teaching fellow and worked closely with Paul Farmer, a global humanitarian, physician, and Harvard professor, at Partners in Health.

Nuthulaganti worked for two years with the Clinton Health Access Initiative in South Africa where he supported malaria elimination and HIV testing and treatment. In 2012, he relocated to Rwanda for two years where his work focused on supporting the government to ease the national shortage of health care workers. Other efforts included trying to improve health delivery systems, getting medical equipment into facilities, and building new infrastructure such as national teaching hospitals.

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