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James Orbinski

James Orbinski

Director (On sabbatical Sept 2023 – Feb 2024)


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Dr. James Orbinski is a professor and the inaugural Director of York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. As a medical doctor, a humanitarian practitioner and advocate, a best-selling author, and a leading scholar in global health, Dr. Orbinski believes in actively engaging and shaping our world so that it is more just, fair and humane.

A champion of health and humanitarianism throughout his career, Dr. Orbinski has extensive leadership, advocacy, and research experience in global health. He has worked providing medical humanitarian relief in situations of war, famine, epidemic disease and genocide with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF). He was elected International President of MSF from 1998-2001, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999, and co-chaired the founding of the  Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative  in 2004, which has since launched six new drug treatments for tropical diseases, and has 17 others in its research and development pipeline. He also co-founded Dignitas International, which researched health systems and clinical care, trained more than 12,000 Health Workers, and supported more than 370,000 people with full treatment for HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Dignitas also worked with First Nations communities in Northern Ontario on community based interventions for diabetes.

Dr. Orbinski is a board Member of Grand Challenges Canada, and has been a member of several bodies committed to improving health equity both in Canada and around the world. These include the  Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the  Stephen Lewis Foundation, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, and the Climate Change and Health Council. He is an invited member of the Davos World Economic Forum’s  Global Agenda Council on Health Care Systems and Cooperation.  He was an invited member to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences 2011  Expert Panel on Canada’s Strategic Role in Global Health.  He is the author of the award-winning and best-selling book An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century. In 2016-2017, as a Fulbright visiting professor to the University of California-Irvine, he worked on modelling the health impacts of climate change.

As the inaugural Director of the Dahdaleh Institute, Dr. Orbinski aims to make the institute a leader and catalyst in addressing global health issues, reflecting York University’s commitment to equity and trans-disciplinary research. The Dahdaleh Institute focuses on 1) Global Health and Humanitarianism 2) Planetary Health and 3) Global Health Foresighting.

Dr. Orbinski holds a BSc from Trent University, an MD degree from McMaster University, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Toronto. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received the  Meritorious Service Cross  for his leadership in providing direct medical relief in Kigali during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He is a member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. An avid canoeist, Dr. Orbinski lives in Guelph, Ontario, with his wife and their three children.


Global Health & Humanitarianism, Global Health Foresighting, Planetary Health




Modelling the Health Impacts of Global Warming in Malawi, with James Orbinski

Related Work

Enabling incremental adaptation in disadvantaged communities: polycentric governance with a focus on non-financial capital | Library, Research

Defeating COVID-19 calls for global solidarity, not a vaccine power play | Library, Research

Addressing structural racism and violence within global health | Library, Research

Think 7 USA 2020: Report of the Think 7 Summit | Library, Research

Global solidarity requires addressing the structural drivers of inequities | Library, Research

Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers | Library, Research

Partnership for Youth and Planetary Wellbeing | Project

Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium | Project

Humanitarian Water Engineering | Education, Project, Research

CommunityFirst COVID-19 Roadmap | Project, Research

COVID-19 Global Health & Humanitarianism Portal | Project, Research

Digital Technologies and Local Food Security | Project, Research

Digital Global Health and Humanitarianism Lab | Project, Research

Critical Perspectives in Global Health | Project, Research

Improving Humanitarian Needs Assessments through Natural Language Processing | Project, Research

Complex Adaptive Modelling of the Health Impacts of Climate Change in Malawi | Project, Research

Health Emergency Data Science | Project, Research

Safe Water Optimization Tool | Project, Research

Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health & Climate Change Policy Briefs | Project, Research

Design and Global Health | Project, Research


Reflections from the Humanitarian Response Network of Canada’s Triannual Meeting and Sphere Training | 22 September 2023

Student Opportunity FW23-24 - Global Health Research Dissemination and Design RAY Assistant | 19 July 2023

Denis Mukwege spurs grads to endeavour for peace | 20 June 2023

Dahdaleh Graduate Scholar Presents Research in Rome and Calgary | 1 June 2023

Groundbreaking global health simulation slated for May | 17 April 2023

Recap — Research Exploration: Taking a Critical Social Science Approach to Global Health Research | 10 April 2023

Recap — Local adaptation to the realities of climate change in the Chilwa Basin, Malawi | 3 March 2023

Climate Change Research Month showcases York as community of changemakers | 1 March 2023

Call for Presentations – 2023 Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Workshop | 24 February 2023

Research recap – Modelling Health Impacts of Climate Change Workshop in Malawi (August 2022) | 9 December 2022

Film Screening and Panel Discussion – In Search of a Better World with Payam Akhavan | 13 June 2022

Publication – Climate Change-Accelerated Ocean Biodiversity Loss & Associated Planetary Health Impacts | 4 March 2022

James Madhier’s Rainmaker Enterprise Collaborating with World Food Programme | 17 January 2022

Opportunity - Research Assistant, Afghan Refugee Health-Related Canadian Resettlement Scoping | 9 September 2021

2021 Seed Grant Recipients Announced: Dahdaleh Institute Seed Grants for Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research Awarded to Five York Researchers | 17 June 2021

Publication - Health impacts of climate change on smallholder farmers | 12 May 2021

New Publication: Melting of Himalayan Glaciers and Planetary Health | 28 March 2021

Summer of Smoke -New Study shows that a Two and a Half Month Smoke Exposure in Canada’s Subarctic Doubled Emergency Room Visits for Asthma. | 5 February 2021

Collaboration with University of the Witwatersrand to tackle COVID-19 in Africa and future disease outbreaks | 26 January 2021

Podcast on Environmental Emergencies: Climate Crises and Humanitarian Response | 18 January 2021

Opportunity: Technical Advisor - SWOT and Humanitarian Water Engineering | 15 December 2020

New Research Grant: Safe Water Optimization Tool awarded WASH Evidence Challenge Grant from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund/Elrha | 10 December 2020

Virtual Launch of Safe Water Optimization Tool | 7 December 2020

Safe Water Optimization Tool featured in two national magazines | 16 November 2020

Innovative new data analytics technology to help improve access to safe water in refugee camps | 5 November 2020

Project Launch: Digital technologies and local food security in the context of COVID-19 | 23 September 2020

Director James Orbinski Co-Chairs Global Public Health at The Recovery Summit | 16 September 2020

James Orbinski Speaks at The Massey Dialogues — On Global Health | 8 June 2020

Media Release: Inuit community shares innovative COVID-19 tool to support communities globally | 2 June 2020

Director James Orbinski Panelist on the Future of Drug Development in Emerging Economies | 7 May 2020

Director James Orbinski Comments on COVID-19 on CTV | 12 March 2020

YorkU Magazine Features $2mil Grant for GGRID Project | 19 February 2020

Dahdaleh Institute Hosts Critical Perspectives in Global Health Workshop | 17 December 2019

Director & Research Fellow at the Planetary Health Annual Meeting | 7 September 2019

Promoting Refugee Health: What can we do better? | 29 August 2019

Director & Research Fellow at System Dynamics Society Conference | 26 July 2019

Dahdaleh Institute Attending Planetary Health Annual Meeting | 23 July 2019

SciDev Article Features James Orbinksi & Carol Devine | 2 July 2019

James Orbinski & Carol Devine at McGill Summer Institute | 12 June 2019

James Orbinski & Jennifer Turnbull Write for Oxford Handbook of Humanitarian Medicine | 10 June 2019

New Podcast Features Archived Interview with James Orbinski | 30 May 2019

James Orbinski, Matthew Arnold & Carol Devine at MSF Sci Days | 28 May 2019

James Orbinski & Joseph Pallant at Blockchain Revolution Global Conference | 16 May 2019

James Orbinski on Freedom from Want on the CBC | 16 April 2019

Health Impacts of Climate Change Strikes a Chord | 12 December 2018

Launch of the 2018 Canada-specific Lancet Countdown Report | 29 October 2018

Director James Orbinski to speak at Ideas at Stratford | 25 June 2018

James Orbinski Publishes in Canadian Journal of Public Health | 29 May 2018

Significant Progress at The Dahdaleh Institute | 17 May 2018

Director James Orbinski to speak at "Water for Peace" | 15 May 2018

Shaping the Global Health We Want: Debating Future Research Needs | 19 April 2018

Development of a Ghana-Canada Global Health Research Partnership | 29 March 2018

York University appoints internationally renowned global health scholars | 1 June 2017

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