James Orbinski

James Orbinski

James Orbinski

International Advisory Board, Global Strategy Lab
CIGI Research Chair and Professor, Balsillie School of International Affairs
Former International President, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders

Dr. James Orbinski is a humanitarian practitioner and a leading scholar in global health. He believes in humanitarianism, in citizenship and in actively engaging and shaping the world in which we live, so that it is more humane, fair and just. As of September 2012, Dr. Orbinski is CIGI Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Professor of International Policy and Governance at Wilfrid Laurier University. At the University of Toronto, which he joined in 2003, he is a full Professor of Medicine at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Senior Fellow at both Massey College and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

In 1986-87 Dr. Orbinski lived in Sub-Saharan Africa researching HIV/AIDS in children under a Canadian Medical Research Council Fellowship. He has extensive field experience with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), having worked as a medical doctor in Peru (1991) and Brazil (1992), and as MSF’s medical co-coordinator in Baidoa Somalia during the 1992-93 civil war and famine, and in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in 1993-94 during the civil war. He led MSF’s mission in Kigali, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and civil war, and in Goma, Zaire during the 1996-97 civil war and refugee crisis.

After completing a Masters in International Relations, he was elected International President of MSF from 1998 to 2001. During this time, he launched MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign (1998) and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999.

From 2001 to 2004 he co-chaired MSF’s Neglected Diseases Working Group, which in 2004 launched the not-for profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi). Since then, he has remained on the board of the DNDI which has developed and delivered 6 new treatments and has 17 others in its pipeline for Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and malaria, while building sustainable research capacity in disease-endemic countries.

In 2004, Dr. Orbinski co-founded Dignitas International, which is now supporting over 200,000 people with full treatment for HIV, and is scaling up its Primary Health Care treatment model to serve a population of 3 million in Malawi. Dignitas also has established an extensive research capacity, with over forty major publications focused on improving health systems in the developing world.

Some of Dr. Orbinski’s research is recognized as among the “best science in the world” (in 2006), and as having "shaped scholarship in the field of global health in the post Second World War years". He is also the author of the award-winning and best-selling book, An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century (Bloomsbury, 2009). The book has since been translated into five languages. He was the subject of the award winning 2008 documentary film, Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma.

Dr. Orbinski has served on the founding boards of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Canadian Doctors for Medicare. He is a founding member of the editorial boards of Open Medicine and Conflict and Health. Dr. Orbinski is a member of the Climate Change and Health Council and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Health Care Systems and Cooperation.

Dr. Orbinski is a member of the Order of Ontario and an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award (awarded by the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association, the International Commission of Jurists {Canada}, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers), in recognition for his outstanding contributions to domestic and international human rights. He was also awarded the 2012 Canadian Civil Liberties Award of Excellence.

See also: Advisory Board