James Orbinski, OC,MSC,BSC,MD,MA,MCFP

James OrbinskiDirector, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research | @jamesorbinski
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. He has worked providing 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. He also co-founded Dignitas International, which researches health systems and now supports more than 270,000 people with full treatment for HIV and AIDS in Malawi, and works with First Nations communities in Northern Ontario on community based interventions for diabetes. His current research interests focus on the health impacts of climate change, humanitarianism, intervention strategies around emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and global health governance.


Theresa Dinh, MSc

Administrative Officer
Theresa Dinh has a wealth of academic and administrative experience at York, and has a strong interest in developing her career in academic administration. Theresa holds a recently completed (2015) Master of Science in Geography from the University of Guelph. Her thesis focused on the Influence of Humans and Climatic Variability on Historic Wildfire Dynamics. She has certification in Research and Project Management, and in Geographic Information Systems, and is highly skilled in data base management, and standard research software.

Harpreet Singh, BCom

Financial Assistant
Harpreet Singh is a graduate from York University with a Bachelor in Commerce, Finance. Harpreet has a strong interest in the area of research administration and accounting and has worked in the public and broader public sector.

Research Fellows

Aria Ilyad Ahmad, PhD

Research Fellow, Global Health Foresighting
Aria Ilyad Ahmad is a policy advisor at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. Since 2014, he has also served as a consultant to the World Health Organization's Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products. Aria is a past Duke University Global Health Fellow and past faculty member of the Global Health Education Initiative at the University of Toronto. He has testified before the Canadian Senate on Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, served on the board of directors of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and was the inaugural Médecins Sans Frontières Access to Medicines Fellow in India. Aria received his HBSc and MSc in international pharmaceutical policy from the University of Toronto, and is completing his PhD in global health governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada.

Syed Imran Ali, PhD

Research Fellow, Global Health and Humanitarianism | @imranono
Dr. Imran Ali is an aid worker and academic focused on humanitarian challenges at the intersection of environment and public health. He has worked in emergency responses and led operational research with Médecins Sans Frontières and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in South Sudan, Pakistan, Jordan, Rwanda, and Uganda. Dr. Ali has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Development Impact Lab and the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Dr. Ali received his doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph and his bachelors in engineering from Queen’s University.

James Chirombo, PhD candidate

DIGHR-Dignitas i2i Planetary Health Community Scholar
As the inaugural “Planetary Health Community Scholar”, James will critically examine evidence and practice on the relationship between climate change and the rising burden of chronic and infectious diseases, food insecurity and malnutrition in Malawi. It is projected that this health burden will further increase due to accelerating climate change and extreme weather events. Under-resourced health systems and vulnerable populations in many global regions are disproportionately affected by the health burden associated with climate change. In Malawi, health care access is increasingly cut off because of climate-related extreme weather events including flooding. In addition, infectious diseases, such as malaria and schistosomiasis, are increasing in prevalence in Southern Africa due to rising temperatures and floods. James will work with scholars at the DIGHR and its partners to define a research agenda for programming that targets adaptation to the health impacts of climate change. James is a Malawian statistician currently in the final stages of his PhD in spatial statistics and epidemiology with Lancaster University in the Centre for Health Informatics, Computing and Statistics (CHICAS). His Phd is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). His research is focused on the statistical modelling of spatial processes of infectious disease transmission. He has a strong interest in modelling climatic impacts on climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases such as malaria. When he was working for the Malawi Ministry of Health, he was a focal person in the ministry for a project aimed at quantifying climatic and weather impacts on health in developing countries.

Tanya Chung-Tiam-Fook, PhD

DIGHR-Dignitas i2i Indigenous Health and Wellness Community Scholar
As the inaugural “Indigenous Health and Wellness Community Scholar” at the DIGHR, Tanya is leading a project in Partnership with the Dignitas International “Ideas to Innovation Lab” to understand the impacts of climate change on the health of under-served Indigenous communities. A particular focus is on how Indigenous communities, health organizations and researchers can be supported to prepare for and improve the resilience of community health systems. In Northern Canada, remote and rural Indigenous communities face multiple social and geographic barriers rooted in low resources (financial and human), low household incomes, lack of culturally safe care, limited technological capacity, and high medical and institutional staff turnover rates that impede their access to quality health care. The added threat of extreme climate events and their impacts on land and food systems, water quality, livelihoods and infrastructures has amplified local health vulnerability. Through this study, Tanya is engaging Indigenous health collaborators in exploring how holistic, equity-focused and land-based approaches to climate-informed health research and programming can be applied to strengthen the knowledge base and capacity of local systems to respond effectively to climate change. Tanya completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Canada-Caribbean community climate change adaptation and holds a PhD in Environmental Studies and an MA in International Development Studies. Her work focuses on: climate change, Indigenous environmental and health perspectives, health equity, social-ecological resilience, biodiversity conservation, natural resource management, community development, environmental and trauma perspectives in mental health, and youth development. She has many years of experience leading and advising scholarship, education and community development projects with collaborators from diverse Indigenous, academic, nonprofit, United Nations and government institutions in Canada, Latin America/Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Netherlands.

Byomkesh Talukder, PhD

Research Fellow, Planetary Health
Dr. Byomkesh Talukder is the inaugural Planetary Health Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (York University), where he works at the intersection of health, sustainable development, climate change, food and agriculture.  He will be working with the Faculties of Health and of Environmental Studies to develop health indicators associated with the Ecological Footprint.  Dr Talukder will also be working on modelling the health impacts of climate change related extreme weather events.  His past research applies a complexity science approach to designing sustainability assessment models of food and agricultural systems in Bangladesh. Dr. Talukder also has over 15 years of interdisciplinary field and training experience, including the supervision of over 2,000 emerging leaders in sustainable development programs and policy design in Bangladesh. Since 2016, he has been a Mitacs Postdoctoral Fellow at Parmalat Canada and the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University. Dr. Talukdar holds a PhD in Geography and Environmental Studies (Wilfrid Laurier University), a MSc in Environmental Studies (Queen's University), a MA in Development Science (Hiroshima University), and a MSc in Geography and Environmental (Jahangirnagar University).

PhD Students

Tino Kreutzer, PhD Candidate

PhD Candidate, School of Health Policy and Management | @tinokreutzer | website
Tino Kreutzer is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of humanitarian response and information management. He has more than 10 years’ experience working in the response to humanitarian crises, natural disasters, and the international Ebola epidemic for the United Nations and other organizations. Tino currently serves as the Crisis Informatics Coordinator at NetHope and is a Senior Advisor at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, where he has been instrumental to the creation of KoBoToolbox, the primary data collection tool in humanitarian emergencies. His PhD research focuses on pioneering a novel system for understanding population needs in emergencies through the innovative use of new technology.

Research Assistants

Matthew Arnold, MSc

Water Engineering Research Assistant – ACWQ+SAM Project
Matt started working as a Research Assistant at The Dahdaleh Institute of Global Health Research in June 2018. Prior to moving to Canada recently he worked for Médecins Sans Frontières as a Water and Sanitation Advisor at HQ level and as field staff since 2003. This work necessitated supporting and implementing water supply and sanitation projects in all types of humanitarian emergencies – from natural disasters and disease outbreaks to population displacements. With an educational background (MSc) in Hydrogeology and a keen interest in Public Health and water quality he is looking to further investigate and research issues in these domains with a view to improving the quality of water supplied in humanitarian responses.


Clarelle Gonsalves, BSc

Inaugural Planetary Health Intern [SU 2018] 
Clarelle Gonsalves graduated from York University with a Bachelor in Science. In addition to her background in biomedical science, Clarelle is passionate about environmental issues pertaining to climate change and its interaction with global health and healthcare systems. Clarelle has worked in clinical research in the Child Health and Evaluative Sciences institute at the Hospital for Sick Children as well as Southlake Regional Health Centre. Her work at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research focuses on the identification and assessment of key performance indicators as they pertain to planetary health; her projects include:

  • Explore and define existing key performance indicators (KPIs), and identify and propose other KPIs for the "Lancet Countdown on the health and climate change”
  • Explore and define these existing and proposed KPIs on the health impacts of climate change, in relation to the Ecological FootPrint Project.
  • Assist in the planning and preparation of a Lancet Countdown 2018 Launch Event to be held at the DIGHR in November or early December 2018.

James Thuch Madhier

Inaugural Global Health and Humanitarianism Intern [SU18]
James is originally from Tonj, South Sudan, where he lived until age 15 before relocating to Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya during the Sudanese civil war. James came to University of Toronto in 2014 through the World University Service of Canada’s Refugee Sponsorship Program. James has been highly involved in international cooperation and transformative social justice work, notably with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC), and European Union, where he has been celebrated as a burgeoning leader and advocate in high-level discussions on trade for inclusive and sustainable growth. James is pursuing a BA in Peace Conflict and Justice Studies at the University of Toronto; his project at the DIGHR and Rainmaker Enterprise include:

  • Explore and define a sustainability, governance and entrepreneurial strategy for use of community based modular water resource supply and management technologies in complex humanitarian emergency settings such as:
    • a) climate change affected regions with reduced water availability,
    • b) low grade or protracted civil war settings. or
    • c) long term displaced persons settings.

Find out more about DIGHR's Executive Committee and other members.