Leadership Team

The Leadership Team provides strategic direction, oversight, and guidance for the Partnership.

Bill Simmons
Chair: Bill Simmons, CEO of American Leprosy Missions

Prior to joining American Leprosy Missions in 2010, Bill Simmons served as president and CEO of two nationwide retail chains. His two decades of business experience serve him well as he leads American Leprosy Missions to bring care and a cure to those affected by leprosy.

Having spent his teenage years in Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) with his missionary parents, Simmons developed a heart for those suffering from curable illnesses like leprosy and the societal persecution that often accompanies these types of diseases.

Simmons is vice president of the ILEP board of directors, an advisory board member for the Nippon Foundation’s funding of the WHO Global Leprosy Program and a founding and executive member of the Leprosy Research Initiative. Also active in his local community, Simmons is part of Leadership Greenville Class 44 and chair of a local non-profit, All Good Things.

He holds a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee.

Takahiro NANRI
Vice Chair: Takahiro Nanri, Executive Director, Sasakawa Health Foundation

Professor Nanri is currently working as Executive Director, Sasakawa Health Foundation and Associate Professor, Faculty of Tourism and Community Studies, Atomi University, Tokyo, Japan. Other social activities include Board Member, Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation, Board Member, Japan Society of Social Design Studies. Previously worked for Program Advisor and Program Director, The Nippon Foundation (Tokyo, Japan), Director, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA Inc. (Washington D.C. U.S.A.), Deputy Director, Sasakawa Peace Foundation (Tokyo, Japan), Director, Sasakawa Central Europe Fund (Tokyo, Japan), Convener/Executive Director, NGO Forum on Asian Development Bank Inc. (Manila, Philippines), etc. He holds a Ph.D. in Community Development.

Arielle Cavaliero
Arielle Cavaliero, Global Franchise Lead, Leprosy, Novartis

Arielle Cavaliero has dedicated five years at the Novartis Foundation to Leprosy. She led the coordination of the Leprosy Post Exposure Prophylaxis (LPEP) program. Working in close collaboration with the leprosy control programs of eight countries and their implementation partners, Arielle provided strategic leadership and technical direction for various aspects of this large and multifaceted international program.

Prior to joining the Novartis Foundation in 2012, Arielle gained experience working at the World Health Organization in Beijing and in Geneva, respectively. She received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Business from Brandeis University and studied in Argentina on Human Rights and Social Movements at the University of Buenos Aires.

Arielle holds a Master of Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with a concentration in low and middle-income settings.

Erwin Cooreman
Erwin Cooreman, Team Leader, Global Leprosy Programme, WHO (observer)

Dr Erwin Cooreman studied medicine at the University of Ghent (Belgium), where he graduated in 1994. Following a short period as family physician in his home country, he worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross in a refugee camp in Burundi. He completed the Diploma course in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Liverpool School in 1995 and immediately after that took up the role of Project Director of a newly launched leprosy and tuberculosis control project in Bangladesh, supported by Damien Foundation, a Belgian NGO.

In 2000 he joined the World Health Organization as Medical Officer for tuberculosis, leprosy and Buruli Ulcer and was posted in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Other WHO assignments, all in the areas of tuberculosis and/or leprosy, brought him to the Regional Office for South-East Asia, again Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Through distant education, he obtained the degree of Masters of Science in Global Health Policy from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In October 2015, he took up his position as Team Leader of WHO’s Global Leprosy Programme. He is based in New Delhi. His main responsibilities include overseeing the formulation of global policies, strategies and guidelines; advocacy; partner coordination; monitoring and evaluation.

Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur (observer)

Alice Cruz is External Professor at the Law School of University Andina Simón Bolívar – Ecuador. Her doctoral work in sociology focuses on the biosocial dimensions of leprosy and identifies, in countries where leprosy is an endemic neglected disease and in countries where it is an imported and rare disease, the different barriers to access to early diagnosis and to high quality care by persons affected by leprosy, as well as their social, economic, familiar and personal life conditions. She has worked with the Brazilian non-profit organization Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen disease (MORHAN), where she was involved in the organization of the First International Symposium on Leprosy and Human Rights (Rio de Janeiro, 2012). Ms. Cruz participated in the elaboration of WHO Guidelines for Strengthening Participation of Persons Affected by Leprosy in Leprosy Services. She served as a member of the International Leprosy Association’s Council (2014-2016). Ms. Cruz has conducted fieldwork in Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia (Plurinational State of) and Ecuador, and has researched and written on the subject of eliminating leprosy and the stigma attached to it. She has interacted with various stakeholders including public health professionals, medical doctors, civil society as well as persons affected by leprosy.

Linda Hummel NLR
Linda Hummel, Chair of Executives Group, Leprosy Research Initiative

Linda is chair of the Executives Group of the Leprosy Research Initiative, the joint fund to support leprosy research. As CEO of NLR, Linda leads the international team of 200+ staff that operate within the NLR Alliance and together aim for zero leprosy. The NLR Alliance has offices in Brazil, Mozambique, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and the Netherlands.

Previously she served 15 years at Amref Health Africa, Africa’s leading health development organization, in local and global leadership positions. She led strategy, investments, and capacity development in funding growth and income diversification in several countries. Before joining Amref, Linda worked as a CEO in publishing and in several commercial management positions in the international media- (TIME Magazine) and internet industry (America Online). Designing growth plans, developing teams, and achieving results in multiple markets were key in these positions.

She acts as a Board Member at Eye Care Foundation and the Metropole Orchestra’s support Foundation. Linda studied Business Administration and has a Master’s degree in European Studies. She was born in South Africa and raised in the Netherlands.

Dr. Johnson Roch Christian
Roch Christian Johnson, President, International Leprosy Association

After obtaining his medical degree in 1997, Dr. Johnson opened a Buruli ulcer center in Lalo,
Department of Couffo in Benin. From 1998 to 2003, he organized the management of Buruli
ulcer and leprosy patients in the Mono-Couffo region (detection, management, training of
health staff and participation in Buruli ulcer and leprosy). At this time, little was known about
Buruli ulcer. In order to improve the control of the disease, it was urgent to learn more about
its epidemiology and treatment. With the support of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM,
Antwerpen, Belgium), Dr. Johnson started a research program, with the possibility to start a
PhD studies on the human and environmental factors related to Buruli ulcer.

In 2003, Dr. Johnson was appointed as Manager of the National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer
Control Program in Benin. This position gave him the opportunity to develop the program
both for control and research. In 2005, he defended his PhD thesis at the University of
Abomey-Calavi with the support of the ITM, Antwerpen. After seven years as Manager of
Buruli ulcer control program in Benin he was recruited in 2010 by the Raoul Follereau
Foundation as regional advisor for Buruli and leprosy control in francophone Africa.

In 2016 Dr. Johnson was elected President of the International Leprosy Association at the last
International Leprosy Congress in September 2016 in Beijing, China. In addition to this
position, he is Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Abomey-Calavi.

Mauricio Nobre
Mauricio Lisboa Nobre, Technical Advisor, The Brazilian Leprosy Program

Mauricio Lisboa Nobre is a physician who specializes in dermatology and leprology working in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil). He has a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Tropical Medicine by the Oswaldo Cruz Foudantion (Rio de Janeiro). At Giselda Trigueiro Hospital in Natal he runs a state reference outpatient clinic for leprosy where doctors in medical residence are trained. Additionally, his main activities include the training of doctors and nurses from the Family Health Program for leprosy management and the support for field researches conducted by the Tropical Medicine Institute of Rio Grande do Norte Federal University, especially on leprosy epidemiology and contact tracing. In the past he worked as the Brazilian Representative for LEPRA (UK) and developed consulting for others ILEP members in Brazil (NLR and ALM) and for the Pan-American Healh Organisation (PAHO). He is member of the Brazilian Hansen’s Disease Society and integrates the Technical Advisory Board for National Leprosy Program in Brazil.

Benedict Okoe Quao headshot
Benedict Quao, Program Manager, National Leprosy Elimination Program of Ghana
Dr. Benedict Quao is a young and dynamic Family Medicine and Global Health Specialist with over 6 years of experience in all aspects of the clinical management of leprosy including prevention and management of disability, and expertise in the programmatic control of leprosy and other case-management neglected tropical diseases. He has become a key player in the development and implementation of an integrated skin-NTD strategy for Ghana, seeking to refine the integration of the control and management of leprosy and other prevalent skin-NTDs (Buruli ulcer and Yaws) into the general health system of Ghana, a country with a low prevalence of leprosy around 0.1 per 10,000 population. As a burgeoning author, he has also made one notable contribution: being the lead author of the Leprosy Chapter in a recently published book on Neglected Tropical Diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, and revealing his passion to reach out to others, he is the founder of Salaris Outreaches, where he leads teams of health professionals to provide free outreach health services combined with the preaching of the gospel to deprived rural areas.
Gangadhar Sunkara
Gangadhar Sunkara, Global Drug Development Lead, Leprosy Flagship, Novartis

Dr. Gangadhar Sunkara leads Global Drug Development activities at Novartis in the disease areas of leprosy, tuberculosis, and fascioliasis. In his over 20 years of pharmaceutical industry experience, Ganga has contributed to various early-stage and late-stage drug development programs, primarily in the therapeutic areas of cardiometabolic disease, anti-infectives, and transplantation. Ganga holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (USA) and an MBA from Fairleigh-Dickinson University (USA). Ganga has authored and co-authored more than 60 research publications.

Amar Timalsina
Amar Timalsina, Global Network Coordinator, IDEA International

Amar grew up in a remote village of Nepal and was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease at an early age. He experienced segregation and exclusion from school. These experiences drove Amar to devote himself to education and lifelong learning, earning an M.A. in English literature and serving as a principal for the past 20 years.

Amar’s dedication to the people who have experienced Hansen’s disease sets an example for people across the globe. He has spoken on the dignity of people who have experienced Hansen’s disease at numerous international events, including the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, and the UN Conference of the State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Amar published his autobiography, Sunlit Mountains: A Story of Redemption, Healing, and Hope, in 2019. He is the Global Network Coordinator of the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA).

Geoff Warne, CEO, ILEP

Geoff has been involved in the leprosy world since 1981 in a series of management, leadership and governance capacities. After ten years in financial management for The Leprosy Mission in the 1980s, he spent 16 years in senior management roles with the leading organisation providing services for blind people in New Zealand, and acquired an MBA degree during this time. He then returned to London as General Director (CEO) of The Leprosy Mission International during 2006-2016.

Since August 2018 Geoff has been based in Geneva, Switzerland as CEO of ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations – a federation of NGOs working on achieving a leprosy free world through focusing on zero transmission, zero disabilities and zero discrimination.