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Using Philanthropy to Spark Government Innovation

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You are invited to join Ruth Lehmann, President and Director of the Whitehead Institute, for a series of virtual dialogues with scientific luminaries from academia, and visionary leaders from the biotech industry.

What trends in science and technology excite them the most? Which innovations have the potential to dramatically impact the way we live and work?

Be a part of the conversation.


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Using Philanthropy to Spark Government Innovation in Food Access, Education, and Guaranteed Income: A Conversation with Jill Shah, President, Shah Family Foundation

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 7:00 - 8:00 PM (ET)

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Jill Shah

President, Shah Family Foundation

Jill Shah is the President of the Shah Family Foundation, which supports transformative work at the intersection of education, healthcare and community. The foundation focuses on demonstrating how private and philanthropic funding can be used to test and accelerate innovation in government programs. In particular, the foundation’s work in school food, has shown that with small capital investments, and the transformation of operations, the USDA school meals program can be used to serve delicious, nutritious, culturally preferred meals to students, while increasing participation, and creating new jobs. A documentary film, called Eat Up, follows Jill and her team during their collaboration with Boston Public Schools and the City of Boston to roll out a deeply impactful new school food program called My Way Café.

The Shah Foundation has extended their school food work during the pandemic through partnerships with the YMCAs across the State of Massachusetts and local restaurants, to tackle both the issues of unemployment and student food access using the federal USDA subsidy. The foundation is also funding a Guaranteed Income program in the City of Chelsea which aims to help its most vulnerable residents fight the unrelenting impact of Covid-19.

Additionally, Jill and her team lead deep research into Covid-19 testing for K-12 students in collaboration with the State of Massachusetts, which has resulted in a comprehensive testing program for schools. No other state in the country has a program that is this comprehensive. Jill hosts the national podcast Catalysts for Change, and co-hosts the hyper-local Boston podcast Last Night at School Committee. She is also currently producing a documentary film about Guaranteed Income.

Jill’s interests include optimized access to fresh and healthy food, improving food access in high-needs neighborhoods, rigorous and successful public schools for all kids, and a deeper collaboration between education and healthcare around issues of physical, mental, emotional and social health.

Jill is a graduate of Providence College where she earned a B.A. in English. Before launching the foundation, Jill was an entrepreneur in Boston and New York, involved in internet start-ups. She also served on the executive team during the turn-around and sale of Mercator Software. She sold her last company, Jill’s List, which focused on the collaboration of traditional and integrative medicine modalities to MINDBODY in 2013.

Jill is currently serving as a Co-chair of the Commonwealth’s Covid-19 Command Center Food Access Task Force. She is a recent recipient of the Boston Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Bostonian award, and the Playworks Game Changer award. She was cited as one of Boston’s 100 most influential Bostonians in Boston Magazine, and she serves on the boards of the Red Sox Foundation, the Overseers of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Overseers of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Belmont Hill School and the Winsor School. Jill and her husband, Niraj, reside in Boston with their two children.


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Ruth Lehmann

President and Director, Whitehead Institute

Lehmann earned her undergraduate degree and a PhD in biology with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard from the University of Tübingen, in her home country of Germany. She has conducted research at the University of Washington, the University of Freiburg, the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. She was a Member of the Whitehead Institute Member and on the faculty of MIT from 1988-1996. She then moved to New York University (NYU), where she served in a number of leadership roles specifically as the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor of Cell Biology and director of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine (2006-2020) and from 2014-2020 as the Chair of the Department of Cell Biology at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine. She also became an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1990 and again in 1997. In 2020, Lehmann took on the role of president and director of the Whitehead Institute. She has received national and international recognition, including election to the National Academy of Sciences as Foreign Associate in 2005 and election as Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2012. She is currently editor-in-chief of the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology and will serve as president of the American Society for Cell Biology starting in 2021.


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Save the Date

March 18: Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate,Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology;Li Ka Shing Chancellor's Professor in Biomedical and Health, UC Berkeley

September 20: Robert Langer

Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, MIT

Visit wi.mit.edu/events for our current calendar of events.


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For questions, contact Erin DeMarco at edemarco@wi.mit.edu.


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