Global Health Working Group Webinar Series: Preventing Pandemics- Future Directions of the Social Sciences in Global Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark global inequities, fragilities and unsustainable practices that pre-date this pandemic and have intensified its impact. Recovering better from COVID-19 will depend on serious efforts to strengthen health systems, shore up social protections, protect economic opportunities, bolster multilateral collaboration, and enhance social cohesion. Given the scale of action needed, the socio-economic recovery from COVID-19 also provides a historic opportunity to reimagine societies using a social science lens and initiate the transformative changes needed to achieve a better and brighter future.

When it comes to the social science view to prevent and control future pandemics, an understanding of the evolving role of politics, international relations, global health, economics, psychology, sociology and ethics have all been suggested as meriting urgent consideration by expert researchers. Insights from the full range of social disciplines including global health are needed now more than ever. Faced with pressing challenges and limited resources, governments urgently need robust evidence to inform critical policy decisions. While medical science has been front and center of the response to the virus itself, social scientists have a powerful role to play in our recovery from it. So, what should be the future direction of social sciences to develop programs or solutions that can be adapted and scaled up to prevent future pandemics? How should we prepare for other pandemics, how human behavior can adapt in times of uncertainty, how we understand risk, how we evaluate the cost of different approaches, how we deal with the mental health burden of a pandemic, and how we narrow health gaps, etc. These are questions for social sciences and global health and PSSC and APRU will try to answer them through a round table discussion.


  1. Clarify the future direction of social sciences in the global health alongside determining priority areas where social scientists should focus
  2. Showcase the emerging research trends and questions in the social sciences and public health brought about by the pandemic, and
  3. Encourage knowledge-integration, sharing and collegial collaboration between and among social scientists and global health experts in the Asia and the Pacific to deepen the discourse on the role of social sciences and global health in preventing future pandemic.
Date & Time

June 2 from 6-8 pm (PDT)/ June 3 from 9-11 am (HK time)

  • Jose “Oying” Rimon II, Director at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University
  • Judith McCool, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland
  • Jonathan R. Guillemot, Professor, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
  • Nina T. Castillo-Carandang, Professor and Vice-Chair for Administration, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, University of the Philippines Manila
  • Edmund W. J. Lee, Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University
  • Maria Minerva P. Calimag, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Mellissa Withers, University of Southern California
Jose “Oying” Rimon II
Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Jose “Oying” Rimon II is Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. He is also a Senior Scientist in the faculty of the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health and teaches a class on transformative leadership. He was Founding Director of the new Center for Public Health Advocacy. Prior to rejoining Hopkins in 2012 he was a senior officer at the Global Health Policy and Advocacy group of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, USA. He led the development and management of a global portfolio of policy and advocacy grants and partnerships covering family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH); maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH); and nutrition. He was a key architect and core member (with special responsibility for foundations and civil society engagement) of the highly successful London Summit on Family Planning team which raised $2.6 billion of new money from bilateral, multilateral and foundation donors. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, he was one of the founders of CCP, the largest center at Hopkins working in about 60 countries worldwide on behavior change communication, knowledge management, health governance, across a range of public health issues. He has more than 30 years of entrepreneurial leadership experience in public health and is a recognized expert in evidence-based policy and advocacy, social and behavioral change, strategic communication, establishing private/public partnerships, and conceiving and managing large and complex multi-issue networks and programs. He has a demonstrated track record of entrepreneurship practice, establishing organizations that have since thrived, generating resources from bilateral and multilateral donors, corporations, foundations and individuals. He is co-author of the books, Health Communication: Lessons from Reproductive Health; the Social Marketing chapter of the textbook Health Behavior and Health Education and Institutionalizing Communication in International Health, a chapter in The Handbook of Global Health Communication.

Judith McCool
Associate Professor in the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland

Judith McCool is Associate Professor in the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. Since 2009 she has been actively involved in the delivery of postgraduate courses in global health for the Master of Public Health and since 2015 been the Director of the Master of Health Leadership Program and leader for Global Health Leadership stream.


In 2008, Dr McCool established the Global Health Group, a network of academics and practitioners involved in global health, with a focus on the Pacific region. The group has received a Vice Chancellors Strategic Development Award and an International Research Team Development Award, reflecting the contributions of the group to development of global health at the University of Auckland. Dr McCool’s research interests include investigating the role of media, including social and digital media as health communication, commercial determinants of health (tobacco industry investments and impacts on global health) and more recently, the role of mobile and digital health initiatives in low resourced settings, ethical considerations for overseas electives. She has worked extensively with a range of stakeholders across the Pacific Islands region to generate research evidence for translation into policy and practice.

Jonathan R. Guillemot
Professor and Researcher in gerontology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Jonathan R. Guillemot is a professor and researcher in gerontology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Ecuador. Beyond his role as a lecturer, he is the director of the training programme of caregivers of older people. His interests include this sociology of aging (including caregiving attitudes towards older people and the political involvement of older people). He graduated in Gerontology at King’s College London, UK, and in Political Sociology at Universite de Lille 2, Lille, France.

Nina T. Castillo-Carandang
Professor, and Vice-Chair for Administration at Department of Clinical Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila

Nina T. Castillo-Carandang is a Health Sociologist, Professor, and Vice-Chair for Administration. Department of Clinical Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila. Her career as a sociologist in the University of the Philippines began in the agricultural sciences campus (Los Baños) before she joined the health sciences campus (Manila) & went into the fields of health social science, clinical epidemiology, & global health. She has investigated sociocultural dimensions of health & health care — the perceptions of laypersons, patients, health care providers, policymakers, & how such can affect health-seeking behavior, clinical practice, as well as policy (clinical, public health). Her current work looks at different facets of quality of life, & the Filipinos’ search for Kagalingan (well-being, happiness, & health), & living well & being well amidst the challenges of cardiovascular diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, COVID-19, asthma & allergies on the lives of Filipino communities, families, & individuals. In addition to her work in academia, she has also been a Cross-Cultural/Diversity & Human Resources Development Consultant for various organizations. She has given over 65 scientific talks, media interviews on COVID-19 (socio-cultural, societal impacts, vaccination, life course approach to health, etc.). Nina is a member of the World Health Organization’s Social Science Working Group for COVID-19 (August 2020 to present) and was a member of the Republic of the Philippines’ National Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) for COVID- 19 Vaccine (December 2020 to April 2022).


Dr. Castillo-Carandang has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology (University of the Philippines Los Baños, Philippines), a Master of Arts major in Sociology degree (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines), & a Master of Science in Design, Measurement & Evaluation (Clinical Epidemiology, Health Social Science) from McMaster University, Canada. Her PhD in Social Sciences & Global Health was from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Edmund W. J. Lee
Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University

Edmund W. J. Lee is an Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and a co-director of the Centre for Information Integrity and the Internet (IN-cube). As a public health communication scientist, Dr Lee’s research focuses on how to take advantage of digital traces—data from social media, smartphones, wearables, and electronic health records—in an intelligent and ethical manner to understand and improve public health outcomes. To date, Dr. Lee has published in several top-tier journals such as Journal of Health Communication, Health Communication, Journal of Medical Internet Research, New Media & Society, Journal of Nanoparticle Research, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, as well as Science Communication. Beyond his academic work, Dr Lee has strong industry ties and has collaborated with several multi-national corporations (MNCs) from U.S. and Europe, as well as small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and various government agencies in Singapore. Dr. Lee previously served as a Global Future Council Fellow at the World Economic Forum, working with global industry thought leaders in advising the global agenda on responsible big data use. Dr. Lee’s research had won several prestigious international awards, such as the top published research paper award from the International Communication Association in 2019, as well as the McQuail Award 2018 from the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) for best article on advancing communication theory. For his scholarly contributions, he was conferred the title of McQuail Honorary Fellow by ASCoR in 2020.

Maria Minerva P. Calimag
Professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and a Graduate Professor at the Graduate School, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Dr. Maria Minerva P. Calimag is a Full Professor at the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and a Graduate Professor at the UST Graduate School. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Class 1977 at the UST College of Science, she then pursued a medical career at the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and the UST Hospital specializing in the field of Anesthesiology. Her relentless passion for lifelong learning has brought her through postdoctoral degrees in Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology at the UP College of Medicine and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Major in Educational Management, Summa Cum Laude at the UST Graduate School. Currently, she is a Senior Associate Researcher at the UST Research Center for Social Science and Education and the Research Center for the Health Sciences.


She was President of the Philippine Society of Anesthesiologists in 2010 & 2011, and later, President of the Asian and Oceanic Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine from 2015 to 2017. She served as Vice-Chair of the Board of Examiners, Member of the Board of Trustees, and Chair of the Board of Program Accreditation of the Philippine Board of Anesthesiology. In 2014, fellow physicians
voted her to lead them as the 93rd President and the 7th woman President of the Philippine Medical Association in its 111th year. She was re-elected as the 97th President of the Philippine Medical Association in its 119th year, during the recently concluded PMA election in March of this year.

Mellissa Withers (Moderator)
Associate Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Mellissa Withers, PhD, MHSis Associate Professor at the Keck School of Medicine in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences. She is based at the University of Southern California Institute on Inequalities in Global Health. She is director of the Online MPH Program. Dr Withers is also Director of the Global Health Program of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a non-profit network of 55 universities. She received a PhD from the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health with a minor in cultural anthropology. She also holds a Master’s in International Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BA in international development from UC Berkeley. Her research interests lie in community participatory research, mental health, gender-based violence, immigrant health, and global sexual and reproductive health. Dr Withers is the editor of two books: Global Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifecourse, and Global Health Leadership: Case Studies from the Asia-Pacific (in press).

Dr. Mellissa Withers at [email protected].