Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center

One Health and Leadership during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, October 22, 2020

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Watch on Watson's YouTube Channel.

This talk is divided into two parts.

The first part will use a One Health perspective to examine why coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are emerging from animals into human populations. One Health is the concept that human, animal, and environmental/ecosystem health are linked. This concept might seem obvious, but it is generally not how governments, academia, or the corporate world approach multi-disciplinary challenges such as emerging zoonotic diseases like SARS and COVID-19.

The second part will examine leadership during public health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, using a framework based on the work by Max Weber, the German sociologist of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Based on Weber’s writings, Kahn developed a model proposing that there are at least two leaders during public health crises: the political leader and the bureaucratic leader. Their relationship, or the lack thereof, influences the outcomes of government responses. The talk will compare and contrast successes and failures of leaders’ responses to disease outbreaks, particularly national leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, who is in charge profoundly impacts who lives and who dies during a deadly pandemic.

Dr. Laura H. Kahn is a physician and research scholar with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs. Her education and training span nursing, medicine, public health, and public policy. She is the author of, "Who’s in Charge? Leadership during epidemics, bioterror attacks, and other public health crises." Originally published in 2009 by Praeger Security International, a second edition has been issued in 2020 with a new preface discussing leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She published, "Confronting Zoonoses, Linking Human and Veterinary Medicine" in April 2006 in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases that helped launch the One Health Initiative which seeks to improve the health of all species by increasing communication and collaboration between human, animal, and environmental/ecosystem health specialists. She writes online columns for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and has published in many peer-reviewed journals. Her second book, "One Health and the Politics of Antimicrobial Resistance", was published in June 2016 by Johns Hopkins University Press. An April 2017 book review in CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases described the book as "an essential primer for anyone who chooses to grapple with this challenging but crucial public health issue."

Princeton University awarded her course, "Hogs, Bats, and Ebola: An Introduction to One Health policy", with a 250 th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. 

A native of California, Dr. Kahn holds a B.S. degree in Nursing from UCLA, an M.D. from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Princeton University. Dr. Kahn is a fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and is a recipient of the New Jersey Chapter’s Laureate Award. In 2014, she received a Presidential Award for Meritorious Service from the American Association of Public Health Physicians, and in 2016, the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES) awarded her with their highest honor for her work in One Health: the K.F. Meyer-James H. Steele Gold Head Cane Award.