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By Jacinda Ardern
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

In 2020, the world discovered a new set of heroes: people who have committed their lives to understanding infectious diseases, whose expertise in the throes of the pandemic became lifesaving. Dr. Ayesha Verrall is one such person. She has spent her career seeking to stop the spread of infectious diseases, and in a moment of global crisis, she used her knowledge to advocate a science-based approach to tackling COVID-19 and improving contact tracing that has helped save lives in New Zealand, especially among those most vulnerable. Ayesha has always understood, and seen firsthand, the link between infectious disease and inequality. That makes health care political, and that made Ayesha political too. Her wisdom on this topic is one of the many reasons that I asked her to join my Cabinet in November.

I feel privileged that in Ayesha, we have someone with expertise, with passion, but also with heart, someone who can tell you the stories of past patients who have touched her as naturally as she can talk about the complexities of disease. A compassionate expert, she is the kind of leader the world needs in this moment, and for many years to come.

Ardern is the Prime Minister of New Zealand

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