On March 2, 2020, Marc Lipsitch joined a panel of distinguished public health experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for a livestreamed discussion of the still poorly understood COVID-19 outbreak. The disease was spreading rapidly around the world but just beginning to take a deadly toll in the United States. Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD) at the Harvard Chan School, began by emphasizing the urgent need to learn more about the virus: “There are a few things we know and many more that we don’t know.”
In the months since, Lipsitch and his colleagues at CCDD have played a leading role in shrinking that knowledge gap, conducting crucial work to predict the spread of the disease worldwide and becoming a trusted source of information for the public, journalists, and policymakers. Similarly, Ariadne Labs—a joint center for health systems innovation at the Harvard Chan School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard teaching hospital—has become a leading voice in addressing COVID-19, creating and promulgating tools and guidance that are being used to assist communities, frontline providers, and health system administrators around the world.
Both centers were able to accelerate and scale their research and response efforts thanks to a combined $1.4 million gift from the Andrew and Corey Morris-Singer Foundation in spring 2020.
“COVID-19 represents an extraordinary challenge to our society and our systems of care,” says Andrew Morris-Singer MD ’07, who heads the foundation with his husband, Corey Morris-Singer PhD ’12. “We believe that both the CCDD and Ariadne Labs are going to make critical contributions to addressing this crisis.”
The Morris-Singers are both deeply committed to improving health care policy and practice. A clinician and educator with faculty appointments at Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard Medical School, Andrew is a national thought leader on primary care reform and leadership development in health care. Corey, a Harvard-trained cell biologist and founder of the Harvard Science Policy Group, has advocated on Capitol Hill for bipartisan support of science education and biomedical research funding. In 2010, they cofounded the nonprofit Primary Care Progress, which Andrew chairs, to develop leadership and community-building skills among current and future practitioners across the country.
Supporting Critical Research
Responding to the escalating pandemic, they have sought to support and amplify the work of clinicians and researchers through their philanthropy. “We’re trying to get more resources to where they can have an immediate impact in the face of this crisis, but also to where they will be building the capacity for healthier and more resilient communities,” says Corey.
In giving to Harvard, the Morris-Singers invested in two centers that have helped shape the world’s response to large-scale epidemics, including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola.
“Andrew and Corey are leaders in philanthropic strategy, responding to the COVID-19 crisis with urgency and with a grounding in science,” says Michelle A. Williams SM ’88, ScD ’91, dean of the Harvard Chan School and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development. “Their gifts to CCDD and to Ariadne Labs give our research the much-needed latitude to respond to this crisis on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour level.”
CCDD has been advising governments around the world and across the U.S., improving testing procedures and availability in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and finding innovative ways to uncover and interpret hidden information about the pandemic—from predicting disease prevalence using infection rates among travelers to reporting on the effectiveness of social distancing using data from social media.
“This gift transforms our ability to do the most important science and make the most important contributions we can to evidence-based policy and decision-making,” explains Lipsitch.
Led by executive director Asaf Bitton MPH ’10, Ariadne Labs was an early leader in promoting social distancing, joining health care professionals across the country in launching the Stay Home, Save Lives campaign. The Morris-Singers’ gift has allowed Ariadne Labs to expand its work to outline actionable recommendations for responding to the crisis across multiple domains, including community mitigation strategies and guidelines for hospital systems in areas such as obstetrics, surgery, virtual ambulatory care, and elder care.
“We are incredibly grateful to Andrew and Corey for investing in this critical work during a time of unprecedented challenges,” says Bitton. “Their generosity has enabled Ariadne Labs to quickly respond to COVID-19 in the way that we do best—developing simple, scalable solutions to improve the delivery and equity of health care. In the past few months, we have been able to have an immediate impact on patients, health care workers, governments, social service organizations, and the general public by developing system-level best practices, effective tools, and pragmatic guidelines to address COVID-19.”