Aspen Ideas: Health Returns in 2021 with Anthony Fauci, Rochelle Walensky, Jennifer Doudna, Marcella Nunez-Smith, Atul Gawande, & More

April 7, 2021

NBCUniversal News Group announced as media partner to the virtual three-day event taking place April 27-29

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, April 7, 2021–The Aspen Institute today announced the initial speaker-line up for the all-digital Aspen Ideas: Health, featuring three days of programming that will explore the big ideas and bold approaches shaping the future of health. The free, public event will take place April 27-29, and will feature leading voices from health care, public health, academia, government, business, the arts, journalism, and more. Since 2014, Aspen Ideas: Health has been the Aspen Institute’s premier event focused on global and domestic health. Traditionally, the program is held each summer as the opening segment of the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, where it is expected to return in 2022.

Attendees can register for Aspen Ideas: Health and view the full speaker list here.

NBCUniversal News Group is the official media partner of Aspen Ideas: Health. Journalists from NBC News and MSNBC will lead interviews with key speakers and report on breaking news from the event. Select conversations will be streamed on NBC News NOW, and

Among the nearly-50 participating speakers: 

  • Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health
  • Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer, Google Health
  • Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate; Professor in Biomedical and Health Sciences, UC Berkeley
  • Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • Renée Fleming, World-renowned Soprano
  • Atul Gawande, Surgeon; Writer; Professor, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School
  • Tedros Adhanhom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization
  • Walter Isaacson, Professor of History, Tulane University; Author, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
  • Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair, COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Maria Shriver, Founder, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement; Founder and CEO, Shriver Media
  • Rochelle Walensky, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Harriet Washington, Medical Ethicist; Author, Carte Blanche, The Erosion of Medical Consent

Additional speakers and a detailed program agenda will be shared in the coming weeks. Anchors and correspondents from NBC Nightly News, TODAY, Dateline and MSNBC, including Lester Holt, Natalie Morales, Trymaine Lee, and Dr. John Torres, will conduct interviews and moderate panel discussions.

“COVID-19 and its devastating impact have made public health and medicine the overriding concerns – and priorities – for the global community unlike anything the world has experienced for the last 100 years,” said Ruth Katz, co-director and Executive Director of the Health, Medicine & Society Program at the Aspen Institute. “Aspen Ideas: Health 2021 will, of course, engage with the extraordinary response to COVID-19.  But in keeping with the program’s unique spirit and great tradition of creativity, we also look forward to tackling a broad spectrum of health issues and showcasing exciting new thinking and innovations in the field.”

The event will consist of a two-hour plenary each day featuring conversations, big ideas, and performances on a range of health topics, and a one-hour Deep Dive, which will engage an expert panel and attendees in a focused discussion about a significant issue impacting health today. Topics to be explored include preventing the next pandemic, dismantling structural racism in health care, ground-breaking discoveries in brain research and gene editing, and the connection between music and healing.

“Health is central to every aspect of our lives- our families, our businesses, our schools. COVID-19 has revealed both our tremendous strengths in science and our pervasive weaknesses as a society.  Aspen Ideas: Health will tackle all of these issues with fresh, new voices and solutions and with an eye to the future,” said Peggy Clark, co-director and Executive Director of Aspen Global Innovators Group. “In true Aspen fashion, we will engage mind, body and spirit with sessions on music, art, science, policy, and community. We are delighted that we will reach more people than ever before through our free online platform, and through our media partnership with NBCUniversal News Group.” 

This year, Aspen Ideas: Health is generously supported by Abbott, BlueCross BlueShield Association, CDC Foundation, Cedars-Sinai, The Commonwealth Fund, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Mount Sinai Health System, and Pfizer.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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