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The Rockefeller Foundation Names Dr. Naveen Rao as New Managing Director for Health and Senior Advisor to the President

Dr. Rao will lead a team focused on reducing child and maternal deaths and ensuring better protection against non-communicable disease and pandemic threats

NEW YORK—The Rockefeller Foundation today announced that Dr. Naveen Rao has been named managing director for the Foundation’s Health initiative and senior advisor to Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Foundation. Dr. Rao comes to the Foundation after a 25-year career with Merck & Co., Inc., where he recently led Merck for Mothers, the company’s 10-year initiative to reduce maternal mortality worldwide. Under Dr. Rao’s leadership, The Rockefeller Foundation will put new, digital tools in the hands of community health providers in vulnerable places to reduce child and maternal deaths and better protect against the rapidly growing burden of non-communicable diseases and pandemic threats. As senior advisor to the Foundation’s president, Dr. Rao will provide strategic counsel and executive engagement to help achieve internal and external objectives.

For decades, Dr. Rao has been a leader in equipping health care providers with the skills, tools, and technologies they need to succeed. He has held numerous leadership positions at Merck and was previously Head of Medical Affairs for Merck’s Asia-Pacific region and Managing Director of Merck’s subsidiary in India. As lead for Merck for Mothers, his work reached and empowered over 6 million women, improving outcomes for safe pregnancies and healthy deliveries around the world. In that role, he was responsible for leveraging the company’s science and business expertise to accelerate progress in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and advancing the company’s mission to improve and save lives.

“The Rockefeller Foundation welcomes Dr. Naveen Rao as managing director for our health initiative at a pivotal time when the world has access to the knowledge, tools and technology to end preventable child and maternal deaths once and for all,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We have an exceptional history of impact on global health, and our work has always been led by leaders with the vision and ability to bring together partnerships, and the determination to see it through over time. I’m confident Naveen will extend this legacy in a profound, results-oriented way.”

“I am excited, honored and humbled by the opportunity to join The Rockefeller Foundation and advance its mission to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world,” said Dr. Naveen Rao. “I look forward to establishing a cross-cutting platform focused on community outcomes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Board certified in internal medicine, Dr. Rao was Associate Director of the Department of Medicine at Lower Manhattan Hospital (formerly Beekman Downtown Hospital) in New York City and practiced medicine in New York for 10 years prior to joining Merck. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the Board of Overseers of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, a member of the Board of Directors of GBC Health and a member the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Health and Healthcare. He is also the Private Sector representative on the Investors Group of the Global Financing Facility (GFF) that supports country-led efforts to improve the health of women, children, and adolescents globally.

“Naveen is passionate about improving the effectiveness of healthcare services to people around the world, especially mothers and children, and this position with The Rockefeller Foundation provides an opportunity to deliver positive change in a new way,” said Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health and DeLamar Professor of Public Health Practice at Columbia University.

“I could not be more pleased by this decision,” said Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria. “Naveen is a close friend and colleague, who is truly skilled at building alliances to improve the health and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable. Community health is the backbone of the world’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and I am convinced that under Naveen and Raj’s leadership, we will enable millions of health workers to improve child and maternal health, eliminate diseases, and provide access to data and information in ways we have never seen before.”

“Naveen, with whom I’ve worked for nearly a decade, is a thoughtful leader with deep global health experience with underprivileged populations and has terrific strategic vision,” said Dr. John W. Rowe, the Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and a Trustee of The Rockefeller Foundation.

“I believe Merck’s role is to help find solutions for the most difficult health challenges facing society—and with Dr. Naveen Rao’s leadership, we have advanced our work to address the ultimate challenge, maternal mortality,” said Ken Frazier, Chairman and CEO of Merck.  “We are grateful to Naveen for his many years of dedicated service.”

The Rockefeller Foundation’s emerging strategy for community health is committed to a belief that the world can and should be a place where everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to live a healthy life. A place where communities in every corner of the world are empowered by the most cutting-edge advances in data analytics, science, and technology. The Rockefeller Foundation believes that breakthroughs only matter when they are in the hands of the people on the ground—in the villages, in the clinics, in the homes where the diseases start and the pandemics can spread. And we believe collaboration is essential to measurably improve and save people’s lives.

Dr. Rao will begin his work at The Rockefeller Foundation on July 1, 2018.


Contact Info:

The Rockefeller Foundation: Matt Herrick,

About The Rockefeller Foundation:

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot – or will not. For more information, please visit