The leadership team provides strategic direction, oversight and guidance for the partnership.
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.
Jan van Berkel, Chair Executives Group, Leprosy Research Initiative
Jan is chair of the Executives Group of the Leprosy Research Initiative. As CEO of NLR, Jan leads an international team of 200+ staff working from 5 country offices in leprosy endemic countries. Prior to this position, Jan was in consulting and management positions in marketing, fundraising and communications for NGOs in Netherlands and Belgium. He also worked at Oxfam Novib for 15 years, where his titles included head of fundraising and director of campaigns.
Jan serves as President of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Organizations (ILEP) and chairs Goede Doelen Nederland, a Dutch Charities Branch Organisation. He is board member of the Trust Fund Dutch Haendel Society. He holds an MA in economics from Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Arielle Cavaliero, Project Manager, Novartis Foundation
Arielle Cavaliero has dedicated the past five years at the Novartis Foundation to Leprosy. She is currently leading 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 provides 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 for low and middle income settings.
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.
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.
Anil Kumar, Deputy Director General (Leprosy) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
Dr. Anil Kumar is the Deputy Director General (Leprosy) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
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.
Benedict Quao, Program Manager, National Leprosy Elimination Program of Ghana
José Ramirez, President, International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA)
José was born and raised in Laredo, Texas by loving parents and 12 siblings. When he was in high school, he was diagnosed with leprosy after multiple visits to medical doctors in Laredo and San Antonio and curanderos in Mexico. Once diagnosed, he was then involuntarily transported in a hearse to the U.S Public Health Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, where he was a patient for 7 years. His treatment involved experimental drugs that led to multidrug therapy (MDT). Persuaded by the Carville Medical Director, Louisiana State University suspended the policy of not allowing anyone with leprosy to work or attend school there, and José graduated with a bachelor’s degree and master’s in social work.
Since then, he has published his autobiography and made presentations on stigma in 18 different countries, including Vatican City. He is an international advocate for persons with disabilities and has experience in mental illness, autism, medical (liver transplant), trauma, and more. He also is the Managing Editor of “The Star,” a journal started by patients at Carville in the 1930’s. José is a board member for the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA) and is a former board member of the American Leprosy Missions.
W Cairns S Smith, Emeritus Professor of Public Health, University of Aberdeen
Professor Smith is Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen. He was a member of the 7th WHO Expert Committee on Leprosy in 1998 and he was chair of the 8th WHO Expert Committee in 2012. He is a member of the WHO Guidelines Development Group and was a member of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on leprosy and formerly chair of the ILEP (International Federation of Anti-leprosy Associations) Technical Commission and the Leprosy Research Initiative steering committee. He was chair of the Scientific Committee for the 19th International Leprosy Congress in Beijing, 2016. He is a member of the LPEP steering committee and the scientific steering committee for PEP++. He has published around 300 scientific papers including over 100 on leprosy.
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.