March 12, 2017

Meet GHTC’s new director, Jamie Bay Nishi

Marissa Chmiola
Communications Officer
Jamie Bay Nishi, MA
Coalition Director

On February 20, Jamie Bay Nishi joined GHTC as its new coalition director. Marissa Chmiola, GHTC’s communications officer, sat down with Jamie during her third week on the job to find out more about her background, what inspires her, what challenges and opportunities she sees in advocacy for global health research and development (R&D), and what lies ahead for the coalition.

What first got you interested in the field of global health and development, and what inspires you about this line of work?

Jamie Bay Nishi. Photo: Devex
Jamie Bay Nishi. Photo: Devex

I grew up as overseas as a “diplobrat,” so I consider an interest in international affairs and global development to be in my DNA. As the child of diplomats, I lived in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and Germany, and had the chance to see firsthand the impact of US engagement in diplomacy and global development.

I really fell into health as an area of interest after graduating college. I wanted to work overseas, but most of the opportunities available at the time were contractor positions in Iraq as part of the war effort. Because that wasn’t an interest area of mine, I took a job working at the Advisory Board Company where I helped launch their Technology Insights product, advising hospitals in the United States on their clinical technology purchasing needs. While I found the work interesting, I ultimately recognized that domestic health wasn’t my passion, so I pivoted my career trajectory toward the global development field. I earned a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and ultimately took a job at then startup-mode Devex, a membership organization and media platform for the development community (basically a Bloomberg for international development). Over a decade later, I am delighted to have landed at an organization that focuses on both health and development, marrying these two interests!

What attracted you to the director role at GHTC, and what excites you most about leading this coalition?

I joined GHTC after spending nearly nine years growing Devex’s membership, as well as building unique partnerships. When considering the GHTC director position, I was excited about the possibility of diving deeper into a technical area within the global development field, and exploring how my membership-building and media partnership development skills could be applied in the advocacy space.

It’s also exciting to take helm of a coalition that has a decade-long track record of effectively mobilizing support for global health R&D. This gives me a strong foundation to build upon, while at the same time offering me the opportunity to consider new approaches to amplify our advocacy for even greater impact.

You’ve been on the job for three weeks now. What are your first impressions?

In my first few weeks on the job it has been my priority to meet with each of our coalition members. I have been continually impressed by the incredible and impactful work each organization is doing to advance innovation to save and improve lives around the world. It’s truly inspiring.

It’s also clear I’ve come into this role at a pivotal time in American political history. The United States has long lead the world in global health and medical innovation, and now more than ever, there is a need for coalitions like GHTC to engage with policymakers to maintain this support and champion continued US leadership in improving health and well-being worldwide. This is especially the case for protecting investments in global heath R&D—forward-looking investments that can sometimes fly under the radar.

Your professional background is in stakeholder engagement, strategic partnerships building, and marketing. How does this experience shape your thinking about advocacy and translate into this new role at GHTC?

While I am relatively new to the policy and advocacy field, I feel my previous experience in member engagement and communications will be a useful skill set to bring into the advocacy space. I hope to bring a fresh set of eyes to the advocacy challenges we face today and drive forward innovative approaches to build momentum within the coalition and to achieve impact with policymakers.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities and challenges right now in advocacy for global health R&D?

This year has brought dramatic shifts in the US political landscape, which could alter the US government’s historic leadership role in global health R&D. As a coalition and community, we have a lot of work ahead to support continued US, as well as multilateral leadership, and prioritization of global health R&D, which includes efforts to maintain or increase funding. Maintaining bipartisan political support and buy-in will be our biggest priority—and to do this we will have to make sure that as a coalition we articulate both the need for and promise of new global health innovations, in the United States and around the world. Due to the highly nuanced and technical nature of R&D, this can sometimes be challenging to communicate.

On the other hand, I am really looking forward to digging-in to expand and deepen GHTC’s relationships with key policymakers and thought leaders in the United States and multilateral space. To really drive the global health R&D agenda forward, it will be critical to broaden GHTC’s constituency to enlist new supporters, and elevate visibility both for the coalition’s advocacy work and the pivotal role R&D plays in the future of global health.

Tell us about your vision for GHTC and what you will be focusing on in your first year as director.

I look forward to bringing our members together this spring for GHTC’s first ever member summit, where together we will strategize the future of GHTC. I also look forward to adding to GHTC’s core competencies to complement the incredible efforts and activities of my team. I personally want to look at new ways to augment the visibility of the coalition and its members, engage new stakeholders without diluting the core mission and purpose of GHTC, and strategize new communications efforts that will resonate with policymakers.

My team as a whole will also be doubling down on engagement with policymakers in Congress, federal agencies, and multilateral entities to promote continued and expanded engagement in global health R&D.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have a lot of hobbies outside of work including being a Zumba instructor, salsa dancer, stand-up paddle boarder and beer/kombucha homebrewer.

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