Helen Rees

Professor Helen Rees is the Founder and Executive Director of Wits RHI, the largest research Institute at Wits University. Helen is a Personal Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Wits University, an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an Honorary Fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge University. Helen is internationally recognised as an award-winning global health practitioner who has dedicated her professional career to improving public health in Africa, with a focus on vaccine-preventable diseases, HIV and sexual and reproductive health. Helen is recognised as an outstanding facilitator who can bring the best out of an audience and derive themes and recommendations from the most diverse discussions. She is widely respected for her ability to synthesize recommendations from multifaceted inputs and to link research to policy. She has successfully chaired many national, regional and global committees in deliberations that have changed key strategies and policies in the African region, and served on expert structures and committees for WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and BMGF. Helen Chairs the Board of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and also Chairs the World Health Organisation’s AFRO Region Immunization Technical Advisory Group, she is Chair of the WHO IHR Polio Emergency Committee and Co-Chairs the WHO SAGE Ebola Vaccine Working Group. She has extensive involvement in national, regional and global response efforts to COVID-19 including the development of COVID-19 vaccines, their rollout and utilization. Helen is involved with the oversight of the COVAX facility that GAVI, CEPI and WHO are jointly driving. She is a member of the WHO IHR COVID-19 Emergency Committee, a member of WHO’s expert committee on COVID vaccines and a member of WHO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards. Helen currently Chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Programme and Policy Committee and serves on the Gavi Board and also Chairs the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI)’s Scientific Advisory Committee and serves on CEPI’s Board. She has received many national and international awards for her contribution to African health and global health including being made an Officer of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to global health. In 2016, she was awarded one of South Africa’s highest honours, the Order of the Baobab, for her contribution to HIV research and to the health of women and children.  Her most recent award is the prestigious L’ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, recognising Helen’s groundbreaking and outstanding medical career.

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