An international online seminar developed in partnership with the Aspen Institute Socrates Program, conducted in English, organized under the framework of  the Aspen Healthcare & Quality of Life Program, debating the resilience of healthcare systems and key challenges in public medicine, in the context of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic.

The Future of Public Health:
Building a More Resilient Post Pandemic System

Public health systems of countries around the world are being put to the test by the novel coronavirus. This unique and often allusive disease seems perfectly designed to expose systemic weaknesses and tests the decades-old question in public medicine of how to balance innovation and universal healthcare.

The United States, Europe, China, and all countries around the world have managed this balance differently and are discovering live the costs and benefits of these choices. The seminar debated key challenges of different public healthcare systems and ways in which different long-term investments and policies have shaped outcomes. Topics included:

  • The cost of not investing in healthcare and not financing research & development;
  • Research & development in vaccines in the context of the pandemic; The benefits of using e-health and the related data privacy issues.

With over one million people dead around the world from this scourge, it is imperative that political leaders and medical experts join forces to learn from this experience. Bringing together key stakeholders from the Aspen Healthcare & Quality of Life Program Community, we used the Aspen Method to create a group as diverse as possible in terms of professional sectors (private, public, non-profit) and gender.

Around 20 participants debated, based on texts sent beforehand, topics relating to public policies, reforms and sustainability in the healthcare sector, focusing on the interaction between the main public, private, academic and non-governmental actors in the healthcare system.

Supported by Univ. Prof. Dr. Alexandru Rafila, Member of the Executive Board, WHO and Aspen Healthcare & Quality of Life Program Director, the two moderators asked the hard questions of how nations balance healthcare for all and innovation, economic health and human lives, individual privacy and the public good.

The participation to the seminar was by invitation only.
The participants included multiple stakeholders from the Aspen Healthcare & Quality of Life Program community.

Seminar moderators


Dr. Jennifer Lee is a Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at The George Washington University in Washington, DC and a Visiting Scholar at the National Academy of Medicine where her work focuses on assessing the current COVID-19 pandemic response and developing recommendations for reforms to the health care system.

Dr. Lee is also a frequent commentator on CNN and has served as a CNN Medical Analyst during the coronavirus pandemic. She previously served as the Director of the Medicaid program for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where she oversaw a $12 billion program and led a critical expansion to extend health insurance to over 350,000 additional low-income Virginians. Previously, she served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. There she was responsible for overseeing national policy and leading key initiatives for the nation’s largest integrated health care system, with more than 1,200 sites of care serving more than 9 million veterans. From 2014-16, Dr. Lee served as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Dr. Lee has also served as a White House Fellow and a health policy fellow on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

She received her bachelor’s from Yale University, her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine, and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins University. She is a board-certified, practicing emergency physician and is also an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow.


Vlad Mixich currently serves as the executive director of the Romanian Health Observatory and as independent expert appointed by the European Parliament to the Management Board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). His health policy experience includes projects in Romania, Lithuania, Republic of Kosovo, Ukraine or Moldova, working with and within international organizations like the European Commission or the World Bank. He was interim Vice President of the Romanian National Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices and senior advisor to the Minister of Health.

With a degree in Medicine, Vlad holds a master degree in international health policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and he is professionally certified in health and humanitarian supply chain management at Georgia Tech. Recently he worked as a Fulbright Scholar and Humphrey Research Fellow at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, US.

Besides his professional activities in health policies, Vlad is a published author. He was editorial director of the main medical publication in Romania and his writings were awarded several national and European prizes.

Aspen Healthcare & Quality of Life Program Director


Professor Alexandru Rafila is currently the Chief of Microbiology Department of University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Carol Davila” and of the Laboratory of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Matei Bals” in Bucharest, Romania. He graduated in 1987 and received a Ph.D degree in Microbiology in 2004. He has been a senior specialist in Laboratory Medicine/Microbiology and Public Health since 2000. Dr. Rafila is the elected President of the Romanian Society of Microbiology and has served in central administration as Secretary of State for Medical Assistance and Public Health, General Director for Public Health and several times as Personal Adviser of the Minister of Health. He is a previous Director of the Public Health Institute Bucharest.

In addition to his standing in his own country, Professor Rafila’s expertise is fully recognized as expert for WHO, NATO and European Commission. He was (2014-2017) Member of Standing Committee of Regional Office of Europe of WHO and represented Romania in the Management Board of ECDC(2009-2014). He was recently elected by World Health Assembly to represent Romania in the Management Board of the organization. Professor Rafila is an active organizer and participant in many national and international medical conferences and events on public health and microbiology. Dr. Rafila has authored articles, manuals, book chapters and guidelines for public health and microbiology practice. He decisively contributed to the reestablishment in 2016 of Medical Microbiology as a specialty in Romania based on recommendations of UEMS where he represents Romania.