Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 15, 2010

Obama appoints U-M alumnus to lead U.S. rescue project
Campus Web site shares news of U-M's response to the earthquake >

Just six days after U-M alumnus Dr. Rajiv Shah was sworn in as the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, President Barack Obama tapped him to serve as the government’s unified disaster coordinator for U.S. rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

Dr. Rajiv Shah

In a State Department briefing on Jan. 13, Shah echoed President Obama’s call for a “swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort” in response to the crisis.

“The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives,” says Shah, 36, who majored in economics at U-M and has a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a master of science in health economics from the Wharton School of Business.

“We’re working aggressively across the various agencies of the federal government, including FEMA(the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Department of Homeland Security, to identify additional units that will be able to deploy as rapidly as possible. And we’re working hand-in-hand with the Department of Defense and (U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander) Gen. (Douglas) Fraser to make sure that we have the transport and logistics to get these assets into the country and efficiently operating as quickly as possible.”

Haitian residents search through rubble in the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake. (Photo by Getty Images)

Shah also emphasized that “we are thinking about critical needs in the area of health and food, water, transportation, and infrastructure, and other advanced planning that needs to take place now because we know that we will have quite a lot of work to do in the days and weeks ahead.”

Following completion of his graduate studies, Shah went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where he was deputy director for policy and finance for global health, and senior economist and then director of agricultural development and financial services. Last summer, Obama nominated Shah as undersecretary for research, education, and economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Shah also has studied at the London School of Economics and the business school INSEAD. He was a consultant at the Center for Applied Research, an economist with the World Health Organization, policy assistant in the British Parliament, health care policy adviser for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign; founder of Health Systems Analytics (a health care consulting firm), and a co-founder and member of the board of advisers for Project Impact.

Shah, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007, is married and the father of two children.