Joanne Liu is a Canadian physician. She was elected to serve as the president of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders on October 1, 2013. She was essential to the creation of the telemedicine project, an effort to provide doctors with knowledge and resources--even in remote locations. Liu has served in 16 different countries on more than 20 assignments.
Early Life and Education
Liu was born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. She focused on becoming a doctor when she was young. She attended McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Montreal. She obtained a fellowship from New York University School of Medicine and earned an international master's in health leadership from McGill.
Doctors Without Borders
Liu joined Doctors Without Borders in 1996. She traveled to Mauritania to aid Malian refugees. From 1999 until 2002, she worked as a programs manager in the Paris office of Doctors Without Borders. She became president of the Canadian branch in 2004. She continued to take part in field assignments, working in Indonesia following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of late 2004. Then she worked in a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she was once ordered to evacuate due to nearby gunfire. There Liu helped establish a program to treat and care for rape victims. Her tenure as Canadian branch president ended in 2009. She next traveled to Haiti, where citizens were recovering from an earthquake and cholera outbreak. She also provided assistance to Somali refugees in Kenya.
Named President of Doctors Without Borders
In 2013 Liu was presented with the Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Later that year, she was elected to a three-year term as president of Doctors Without Borders. Among the points she wanted to address was more affordable and accessible generic drugs.
In 2015 she guided Doctors Without Borders to help manage Ebola in nations where it was prevalent. Partially due to the actions of Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that Guinea was free of Ebola by late 2015; however, it was still present in other nations. Liu faced other difficulties during her term that put her and others in immediate danger. While Doctors Without Borders always emphasized patient care over supporting any side of a conflict, some areas proved too dangerous for the organization. One of these was Afghanistan. After a U.S. airstrike mistakenly hit a hospital there in October of 2015, the organization left the country. Liu was very vocal in demanding accountability and making sure the tragedy was not ignored or forgotten. Despite the numerous challenges and dangers, Liu remained optimistic throughout her career.
Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, 2013.
- "Doctors Without Borders President Recounts Attack on Kunduz Hospital," CBC News, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/afghan-msf-doctors-without-borders-joanne-liu-1.3256933 (February 4, 2016).
- "'Extraordinary' Canadian Physician Wins National Award for Contributing to Global Health," CNW, http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/extraordinary-canadian-physician-wins-national-award-for-contributing-to-global-health-512028891.html (February 4, 2016).
- "International President," Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), http://www.msf.org/international-president (February 4, 2016).
- "Montreal Doctor Becomes Second Canadian to Lead Médecins Sans Frontières," Toronto Star, http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2013/11/08/montreal_doctor_becomes_second_canadian_to_lead_mdecins_sans_frontires.html (February 4, 2016).
- "MSF Welcomes Dr. Joanne Liu as New International President," Doctors Without Borders, http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news/msf-welcomes-dr-joanne-liu-new-international-president (February 4, 2016).