Have you ever been told no for an opportunity that you knew was perfect for you?
What did you do?
Our guest today, Andrea Feigl, the CEO and founder of the Health Finance Institute has a strategy for getting past those roadblocks and succeeding in her efforts. Her story is an inspiring example of what it means to be your own conduit of change. Her journey, which began growing up in a small town in Austria, has taken her to many prestigious organizations such as Harvard, where she got her PhD and was a visiting scientist from 2015-2020, the WHO and OECD. Currently, and the founder and ceo of the Health Finance Institute, she is changing the world through innovative approaches to end the human suffering that is caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions.
Even if you're planning to make more local changes through your leadership, her story provides key steps you can start working on right away.
As Health Finance Institute's CEO and founder, Andrea brings extensive leadership experience in academia, the public sector, international organizations (WHO, WB, OECD), and the global non-profit sector. Her past work focused on the economics and policies of preventing and treating the economic burden of chronic diseases, as well as on health financing and governance, UHC, and cost-effectiveness of chronic disease interventions. She has been recognized as the innovator of the Evidenced Formal Coverage Index metric for universal healthcare coverage and co-founded the Young Professional Network for Chronic Diseases (YP-CDN).
Apart from being the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, such as several Harvard graduate awards and the Fulbright scholarship, she has also authored several high-level reports, including Development Aid Flows for Chronic Diseases for the Center for Global Development and a leading WEF/Harvard report on the global economic burden of chronic diseases.
A native of Austria, Andrea received her Ph.D. in global health from Harvard University, MPH and BSc (First Class Honors) with a full scholarship from Simon Fraser University in Canada, and IB from Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway. Andrea was a Visiting Scientist at Harvard from 2015 to 2020 at the School of Public Health and is a Salzburg Global Fellow. In her free time, you can catch her pursuing her passion for dance and raving about the beauty of her homeland, Austria.
While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Castmagic for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.
Teri Schmidt [00:00:00]:
Hi, Andrea. Welcome to Strong Leaders Serve podcast. I'm looking forward to our conversation today.
Andrea Feigl [00:00:07]:
Hi, Teri. And, thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited about this conversation as well.
Teri Schmidt [00:00:12]:
I'd love to get started. I know you have had an extensive history, a long and exciting journey to where you are today. So I'd love to hear just a little bit about who you are, how you lead today, and some of the pivotal moments in your journey that have gotten you there.
Andrea Feigl [00:00:31]:
Yeah. What a what a great question, to start with, I'm currently the CEO and founder of the Health Finance Institute, which is a Washington DC based global health nonprofit And by training, I'm a health economist, and my early training wasn't biochemistry. So I always had an interest in health and making a difference to making a difference at scale. But I think that in terms of distance traveled, sometimes they have to pinch myself because I don't even realize, you know, how far I may have actually come. Mhmm. And I need to basically sometimes get, like, a grounding and objective grounding of of what I'm actually doing. So my thoughts catch up with the work that I do. So I grew up in a relatively small town in the south of Austria. Not as hilly as sound of music, but you get the idea. And you know, my first first innovation in college graduates and my parents were teachers. I we were a relatively large family, and I always knew that I wanted to be out there in terms of the larger world that was inspired by all biographies about doctors who first transcribed a human heart to the biography of those who discovered the HIV virus on a had a really real interest in development work. And so At the age of sixteen, I was afforded the scholarship that was given to 2 students in Austria for both commuting each month and excellent. academic performance, and I then finished the last 2 years of high school in a remotes place in Norway where we were 200 students with from 83 different countries, studying the the National Bachelorette curriculum. When I always describe it as, you know, not just an inflection point, but sort of the best and the worst experience of my life because of all the challenges, but also all the opportunities there. So and that that really kind of, like, opened my mind to the world to international understanding to what impact you know, can look light. We got exposed to speeches, like like, in person visits by the dial in Alma's sister to the founder of Save to Children International to, you know, ministers, royalty, and so on, and The student body was made up, students who came from reading the worst conditions such as refugee camps had been there for a decade or more lost their siblings to HIV aids to granddaughters of the director general of the Swiss National Bank. You know, so you had the full spectrum of economic experience, which I think is so important that if you want to actually have an impact, you really need to understand The top echelons, but also the lower echelons of
Teri Schmidt [00:03:14]:
Andrea Feigl [00:03:14]:
Definitely. -- a social change. Mhmm. Yeah. Anyway, so I don't want to draw up my starting it too long. No. No. That was definitely an inflection point, and there's a whole other story of how it almost didn't happen if my mom hadn't, like, stood up and called the Ministry of Education and said, well, you know, we never received the application material, so we couldn't have met the deadline, but my daughter must go to this school. And it was kind of like this moment where, you know, I I remember it vividly. I had my mom not picked up that phone that day and made that call. I wouldn't be in this position today. So -- I
Teri Schmidt [00:03:52]:
just got goosebumps.
Andrea Feigl [00:03:53]:
It's just yeah. It's and so and there was another similar story where I had finished my biochemistry degree a chemistry degree, Canada. Again, I have this, like, 2 sides of, like, being an artist and being being an artist but being also various a a scientist. And so I was studying by chemistry, but also did a teacher's degree, in classical demands because I was loved classical ballet and, you know, that it will hold 4 or 5 hours of daily training to me and a whole 4 year curriculum and whatnot. And after that, I thought, you know, the next step is medical school, and they did get accepted. And, you know, literally all doors were closed because they wanted to study in United States, I had gotten accepted to Cornell Medical School. And back then, it didn't give, like, today to give scholarships to everyone, including in the student, but back then, it didn't. And they wanted $450,000 in an escrow account, which I didn't have. So I was like, okay. So what am I doing next? And so I decided to study to study Alzheimer's and do lab work, and I just couldn't get excited about it. Like, I just am a very passionate person. I always feel driven. And, you know, when I don't feel about something, Then I'm like, well, I don't wanna do it. You know, I'm like, something is wrong. Say, it created and investigated, and I found out about this massive and public health program that just had started. but, you know, applications were closed. The Cornwood was decided upon. And I walked into the Dean's office, and they said, I must. And so I looked at the so at the background, there's a look at the reading An honored reading this was Paul Farmer's pathologies of power. And but also if you would don't know Paul Paul Farmer as he Recently, I think a year or 2 ago passed away, but he is a founder of partners in health. And we only had laid a groundwork for high quality therapy for HIV patients, tuberculosis patients in the most remote settings, the most vulnerable settings, and and talked about how the poorest still have the right for the same level of health care than the richest in a bin in the world. And -- Mhmm.
Andrea Feigl [00:05:57]:
I would just like, oh my god. Like, this is this speaks to me because it's a powerful justice. It's about policy. It's about medicine. Like, I want to be part of that curriculum. since I said, you know, I need to be in this task.
Teri Schmidt [00:06:09]:
Or just like your mom had done years earlier
Andrea Feigl [00:06:11]:
my mom had done. Yeah. Like, the alphold and fall back from the tree, and the dean was like, Never mind. I had thousands of applicants for 20 spots. The dean was like, okay. Well, invite me in asking overnight why you think you belong. And I did. I wrote about universal health care, which is student health care financing and how it's so important and how everyone has the right to help. Just as they had, you know, and and how to make the possible within policy and financial frameworks and which is still what I'm working on today. Mhmm. And they were like, okay. Welcome to our cohort. and I told mad as supervisor, I'm sorry, and we'll love you. Right. And you're alive. And all I went with my life, and then, you know, what they just led to another there. I was really inspired by faculty. I got an internship with the Pan American Health Organization. Lily began, like, kudos again, it is a regional office of the World Health Organization based in Washington, DC, fell in love with the policy world fell in love with impact evaluation and making sure that the little money that you'll be having global health gets spent well. So now it was my master's thesis. And if you look at sort of my track record in publications and what we do today, it's still related to impact evaluation. It's still about Driving evidence based policy to maximize, health impact, economic impact, and all with the view towards alleviating human suffering. Yeah. increasing, you know, the the potential of each person. So so, yeah, so, like, it's I think that These two moments, you know, with my mom picking up the phone to the ministry of health education in Australia than me basically walking into the dean's office for the master's in public health. Say, I must do this. Yeah. I think we're cut notes really life changing for me because one thing just led to matter. And then after they took the ship, it got a job for the Canadian government. We host at several conferences that then introduce me to my future mentors and out of future bosses. Would it help me, you know, make introductions to May then, mentors that Harvard University where I did my PhD in Global Health And Health Economics. You know, it's just snowballed from there. Mhmm. And then, you know, after my PhD, I was working as a global health consultant for a while, still stayed at Harvard. I wasn't Paris for 3 years. It's the health economist at the OECD looking at the economic impact of obesity and alcohol in over 36 countries. So we model that's directed indirect costs, Berlin. And after that, appointment returned to the US early
Teri Schmidt [00:08:44]:
Andrea Feigl [00:08:44]:
after incubating Health Finance Institute at a Harvard with the another policy fellow and for amazing RIAs. I mean, the fact that they were RAs there is does not do justice to how qualified these individuals were and then started and launched in institute early 2019. But
Teri Schmidt [00:09:02]:
there I have so many questions because I'm just inspired by your story, but I'll I'll try to keep it to just a just a couple. You know, in those two pivotal moments you were talking about, it sounded like you had such clarity about what you wanted. And I'm just curious how you arrived at that. I know you said you kind of always have been a very passionate person. Yeah. How'd you get that clarity enough to first have your mom make that phone call and then have you walk right right into the office and say, I must do this.
Andrea Feigl [00:09:36]:
Yeah. I mean, I think it's I'm not sure if, like, clarity came at one single moment. It's kind of the same way. You know, like, if you go to the gym every day, when are you gonna be in shape? There's no one single day where you're, like, you're in shape, but a year later, you're like, oh god. Yeah. I'm in shape now. Right? So about this school, the school is called the United World College, Everybody should look it up. It's
Teri Schmidt [00:09:56]:
Andrea Feigl [00:09:57]:
in 10 places, not exist in 16 places globally. I believe 16. And so my mom had gotten, like, It's like weird Christian newspaper and, like, you know, we're we come from a Catholic family, but we're not, like, that you know, we're religious, but not super religious. Bob, mom had been sending her this, like, women's magazine, and there was a profile of the school. And the school is absolutely secular. It's a non religious but there was a profile of that school. And she's like, my god. Like, Andrea, this is a school for you. You know, I was the one in the the college here in Wales. I was like, yeah. Whatever. you know, my mom requested the brochures. I looked at it. It doesn't have dance in it because I need to keep dancing. And but I always wanted to, like, go at, like, I wanted more like, a sort of studying a provincial hometown in Austria. I always wanted more. Mhmm. And then soon realized that that might be the opportunity to do more. And then I remember Again, there was sort of, like, you know, when you get this intuition, you're like, okay. This is so real. So I tried myself with modeling at age fifteen, sixteen. I assigned with, an agency back then, and There was this one particular photoshoot. And I I remember the only thing I haven't eaten today was some, like, chocolate wafers, We waited 6 hours for the photographer. I was, like, sitting in various, like, very, you know, very little clothing for a whole day, waiting, in, like, makeup. And then, you know, and I'm a very brady person. So, anyway, so then I get all set and then they shoot, like, oh my god. You're gorgeous and this and that, and then move this way with that way. And then when you don't down boom, and then the next girl comes and set, and then she is a gorgeous winner. And I was just like, that brought me Mhmm. Like, then you read this thing. I'm like, maybe, you know, Christy Charligan does so much from eternal child health. I was like, I had no idea about platforms. So maybe it was the wrong decision. Who knows? but it wasn't the decision that I took. And I was like, no. I need to come home from Vienna. I need to go apply for the school. I need to make my own way where I have decision making power. and where I'm not just a commodity, but where I actually offer what I have to offer beyond what's outside to the world. So I think that was within a conscious decision. And then that year applied, they canceled the scholarship from a state and it's gonna apply to next year. The year after my principal didn't actually share the application with me because he didn't want me to leave the school. So there was this whole story how he had to sign I'm documenting to be sent to the minister, say he withheld that make a application material for me. Wow. I don't remember, like, my teacher, my classroom teacher. She, like, walked in there. With those letters, and it hurt them like arguing and she's like, this isn't the school fun angina. She needs to go there, you know, and it gets -- Yeah.
Teri Schmidt [00:12:26]:
Andrea Feigl [00:12:26]:
but she hadn't shared the application materials with me, which is why, you know, I was invited to an interview and was able to skip the first interview around. You know? So, anyway, so it's -- Yeah.
Teri Schmidt [00:12:37]:
Andrea Feigl [00:12:37]:
it's, I mean, it's almost like a mirror. Give me if you talk about modern day miracles. I mean, that's a miracle, right, that I got there was really a miracle to me. Yeah. And then the same thing with the with the with the masters. I mean, I remember, and it was really random. I was I was coming back from my break between my bachelor's and my master's a month early to get a head start, you know, to finish her master's in 1 year to, like, And I was just wasn't motivated. And I used to so that the 2 things I do is so, like, I today I meditate after I I used to pray a lot, and I also danced a lot. And I was in this, like, place with my Dan my my my friend that I met from Danzig, and he was like, oh, did she know about this, like, program? in public health, and I applied for next year. And it's really great under your university. And I'm like, oh, I haven't heard about it. He's like, oh, wait. Yeah. Yeah. It's amazing. And you should look at it. I'm like, okay. And then I looked into it, and I remember, like, I looked at tuition. I'm like, I can't afford this. I remember, like, praying on, like, that Sunday morning after I've gone out about it. I was like, I need to do this program. I was like, I need to do it. And You know, it somewhat happened. And there I mean, there's so many stories. Maybe I share it one more if it's okay. Yeah. Yeah. So, like, you know, with the with the financial support, so I was invited. So when I was at this International World College, United World College, Norway, between my 1st and second year, we were invited to something called the World Scholar state games. It was our first supplement in the United States. It was held in Rhode Island led by a guy, not Dan Doyle. And It was this kind of summer program where you had Olympic athletes and dancer, you know, scholars and dancers and and artists and and and and athletes come together to be exposed to all sorts of, you know, I don't know, inspirational speeches, programs, I mean, we had Eric Schmidt there. We had, you know, we had helped lawyers, government officials, governors, senators, Like, you name it. Like, we had, like, exposure to fantastic individuals, and one person that gave a speech one day was Ellen Hassonfeld. Big shout out to him. He is so his family hasn't felt or owns, Hasbro, which is It grew you know, like, Mattel
Teri Schmidt [00:14:53]:
Andrea Feigl [00:14:53]:
Teri Schmidt [00:14:54]:
Andrea Feigl [00:14:54]:
hot wheels -- Mhmm. -- Spiderman. Yeah. All that kind of stuff. And he said, okay. Like, you're all smart individual coming from 50 states of the United States or 51 cities from United States and a 150 different countries. Whoever gets me signatures from a person from each country in each United States state gets, whatever, $10,000 worth of scholarship. So that one day we went to the UN, and I'm the only one from Austria as I hold a lot of power. Right? Hi. Fast a book around, and I got, like, I think I got, like, a 180 something, a 190 something signatures headed in. drive, you know, after I come home, I mean, I'm at home from New York, Paris, Austria, and I'm like, you know, when I came home, I said, mom, you know, I'm so stupid. I shouldn't have just gotten 3 more is why I did not do it. It was, like, free money. I says, no, you got a letter. And so, basically, I was I didn't get all the signatures, but I got like, like, you know, like, I think the top was a singer. So Alan wrote me personally. He said, you know, congratulations on Jaya, he has $5000, which, back then, was actually almost 10,000 So -- Uh-huh. Those were the names. Right. -- strong US dollar. And I have used that money, you know? Until that point. And I was like, okay. This is time I use that money. And then I wrote him again. I said, Alan, like, in my first it was, like, a 2 year program, a
Teri Schmidt [00:16:10]:
Andrea Feigl [00:16:11]:
a half year program, the 2nd year. in a summer, they basically stopped all scholarships from international students, so they're not a sort of crisis. And they wrote him as said, Alan, like, without you, I wouldn't have done this program. This is, I held on those money almost like 10 years or whatever, 8, 7, 8 years, but I need whatever 3000 more. And he's like, boy, if you can get a hit match, I'll send you another check. Oh, and and I got it matched and he sent me another check. Like, his foundation sent me another check. to $5000. It's entirely sure. And then I got the opportunity to thank him personally. I didn't even end in the UN when I was doing my PhD and I said to him, look. I've been in my PhD program at Harvard right now. I've worked for Oxford. I've worked for a significant development, recruited to national organizations, but without you, I couldn't be there. You know? And so, I mean, again, what are the chances? Right? And so sometimes you know, I don't know. Yeah. It's it's crazy to think about that life story. So Yeah.
Teri Schmidt [00:17:08]:
Yeah. Wonderful. I've experiences that you've been through. And and not just that you recognize that you've been through them and you, you know, celebrate them and cherish them and help use them to help you move forward. A couple of things that I heard in your story is that you it sounds like you We're very clear on what your values are, what got you excited, what you would say yes to, what you would say no to. But then you remained open and kind of kept your eyes open for opportunities, whether it be that school in a random magazine that your mom was getting or the program that you heard about when you were with your friend. So I'd I think that's a lesson for everyone is just, you know, once once you have that foundation, then you can really keep your eyes peeled for opportunities that can help you to grow and help you move forward on your mission in life.
Andrea Feigl [00:18:00]:
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, there was a lot of discernment and, like, obviously, telling the story and looking back, it's much clearer. Right? I mean, there were Definitely times. I'm like, I've tried everything, you know, and why isn't the store opening? you know, sometimes I look back at if if my mentor just had told me these things. It could have gotten there so much faster. You know? So but
Teri Schmidt [00:18:22]:
I would love to learn more about the Health Finance Institute and The work that you do and also what motivated you to start it.
Andrea Feigl [00:18:31]:
Yeah. No. And it's such an important part of my life. as well. So, it was built based on the fact that chronic diseases, which are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic obstructive malaria disease and mental health conditions. They make up about 80% of the burden, disease burden, global, and and high income countries. So more than us, 5, 50% of the burden, like, in low and midland com countries together. And the burden is constituted by basically how much do you suffer and how how prematurely do you die compared to, like, like, an expected, like, less expectancy of of what we considered highest than that expectancy at T Mobile looking at, for example, Countries like Japan. And so but this suffering has been virtually underfunded. So when I started 15 years ago, most countries were tracking how much they're spending on on these conditions and the tracking systems even to date in high income countries where disease are very poor. And when you looked at the disease burden sort of suffering compared to the development assistance, we did a study at the center for global development with one of my colleague and mentors, reachable, Eugene. I'm looking at that entire disease burden only receives about 3% of development assistance for health. And most of that funding used to go with some eye conditions and cervical cancer, breast cancer, so like childhood cancer, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, early onset recognition, all the, you know, mental health burden, depression, all that kind of stuff. Didn't receive basically 0 funding for help systems in law and make the income countries. And, you know, and in a way, that's a huge social injustice. And the other interesting part is is that it caused the global economy about about 5% in GDP growth annually that we don't invest in access adherence prevention. So not only is it a moral imperative, granted that we care and recognize that everybody every human has the rights to, you know, the best attainable health, Right. but it's also an economic imperative, right, because you're basically depriving your population from that economic growth. Yeah. And so after, you know, after studying the net underfunding and publishing reports, I really wanted to make my PhD about chronic disease prevention and and epidemiology and economics than I did in both in, I was actually the only one in my cohort in global health that focused on chronic conditions. For the 1st couple of years, no funding was at all been to me from the university. Mya Grant's because chronic disease research wasn't funded in our global health program back in
Teri Schmidt [00:21:15]:
Andrea Feigl [00:21:16]:
However, there was no single course with chronic diseases. Will you believe it? Oh my gosh. Like, I mean, there were, you know, in the regular US, like, program. Yes. global health. There was no module of chronic diseases. Because most of the international health funding has gone through, like, very verticalized programs, like vaccines efforts, malaria, HIV AIDS, driven by, you know, the huge pep for initiative, but you're gonna States spearheaded by, you know, the Bush administration back then, like, found it then. And then also, you know, Gates, who is very focused on HIV, it's malaria, maternal, general, health. is reasonably capitalized, catalyzed a lot of out of global health funding, but on very specific areas of very specific
Teri Schmidt [00:22:00]:
Andrea Feigl [00:22:00]:
Mhmm. -- that are very important. They'll get their own bots. Yeah. You know, they don't cover the whole specter. Right. So we then launched just, like, no. No. Not me, but the World Economic Forum Commissioned a study, and it was a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, Harvard, and the World Health Organization looking at the economic burden of inaction towards chronic diseases in non middle income countries. And the number that we came up with was basically If business as usual continues, we lose
Teri Schmidt [00:22:30]:
Andrea Feigl [00:22:32]:
to the world economy between you know, whatever,
Teri Schmidt [00:22:34]:
Andrea Feigl [00:22:36]:
Teri Schmidt [00:22:36]:
Andrea Feigl [00:22:38]:
And then we launched this report on the eve off the first you had high level meeting for chronic diseases, which was held in 2011 in September in New York. And I thought, you know, gee. Like, this is huge. You know, the world economic forum is here. The press, it was like fortune and fords and and CNN and everybody else is like, Oh, some world beater is gonna be like, oh my god. You know, we have to do something. We have to set up a fun for this. You know? Yeah. Well, nothing nothing happened.
Teri Schmidt [00:23:05]:
Andrea Feigl [00:23:05]:
was an updated meeting. Nothing happened. In fact, the resolution 2011 was so much stronger that they thought that they could negotiate in 2018 that they didn't even touch it. And in 2018, I was at the OECD. And, again, I had broker disrelationship between the OECD, which is primarily focused on which countries with the UN and the agency task force representing 42 UN agencies. on the chronic disease issue and also was basically, you know, sitting in the direct, OECD director general seat at the UN in September
Teri Schmidt [00:23:37]:
Andrea Feigl [00:23:39]:
like, looking at, you know, all the draft resolutions and the resolutions would be towards chronic diseases, but all heads of state. Right? I need to send a couple things, but it basically didn't allocate any funding nationally. internationally. And I saw, you know, what is needed that would actually help unlock some of that financing? Because I saw a lot of the economic evidence that you can actually inspire economic growth and also yield returns through innovative and blended finance drugs, in the chronic disease space. So I have been ideating since May 2018 in collaborating with senior fellow, dependent Harvard Kennedy School since I had an appointment at the school of Public Health back then at Target, plus 4 other, RAs. I'm gonna have been writing, like, basically, some background papers on what exists in Innovative Finance for chronic diseases. Mhmm. And I thought there's this mandate, not mandate, but there's this aspiration on the sustainable development goals that to probably get the private technician work together The World Bank and the OECD came out saying about the blended finance, which is basically using public and private finance to incentivize private sector finance should be integral to the to financing the SDGs, hence, also, health. And the world thinks that 20 to 40% of the health care spending should come a private sector. There's nobody saying how. You know? Where? When? Like, oh, well, what time frame? who pays sort of feasibility, which of the groups that help the technical know how, like, you know, and even just
Teri Schmidt [00:25:19]:
-- Small things.
Andrea Feigl [00:25:20]:
Yeah. Like, all these things exactly. So that said, you know, like, the needs of an organization that can help foster their dialogue, and this is really where we come in, where we say We have 3 strategic goals right now, which is to partner, to analyze impact and to lead. Mhmm. And our partnerships look like this where we partner both with public International or private organizations to say, okay. Like, what would it look like if this program, if this health system, or to scale up financially, what would it be in terms of impact, where can the public, where can the private sector work together, but also sending the very clear message. There has to be financial and political commitment, and it without one or the other, it just doesn't work. Great. You cannot Like, money doesn't come out of nothing, and grokes doesn't come from like, you have to plant the seeds and, like, fertilizes seed and water that our soil order for something to grow. Right? Mhmm. So because a lot of people have that that they just think of point. They were saying, no. No. No. You have to work together. In terms of leadership, soft leadership that we do, So we've published we have pet collaborations with University of Washington and the seats control priorities project with several scholars from Harvard. We've published two articles this year on Blended Finance in the last decade of Blended Finance. And then the third thing that we do is impact analysis. where we do economic impact analysis, but where we present the data in a in a way that is very accessible and actually changeable by implement risk policy makers' funders. So it's not like the static, like, paper that you have to pay for. And then the has, like, you know, like, 3 scenarios, and that's it. Right? Uh-huh. And if you wanna access the data, you have to email the research days, no, it's actually something you can access. And so so as an organization, so we are a nonprofit organization. So we're always looking for core funding, putting it out there. Right? is that yes, ma'am? Yes. But we also do fee from service work for, you know, with specific partners and that it has been both in a recent years. you know, to access the medicine coalition, will that be this foundation and the and the Danish Red Cross, the World Health Organization We are an Eka sock, a part of the Eka sock Eka sock service status who is a registered civil society organization there, and then we've also been working with pharma and med tech organizations. you know, for looking at the impact of the global health strategy and where they can scale and things like that. Mhmm. Mhmm.
Teri Schmidt [00:27:46]:
And like you said a little while ago, that That impact evaluation focus and the impact analysis is so important. I assume to getting the buy in that you need to establish those partnerships to get the funding to -- Absolutely. -- and to determine what initiatives are worth moving forward and and which ones are not.
Andrea Feigl [00:28:09]:
Yeah. And, I mean, it's not even just that. It's actually setting up the projects with the right data structure so we can measure the impact. Yes. And in many places, we're still at this, like, no. We need to integrate We need to determine those indicators. We need to put things in place to measure, not just the health impact. I need to measure wallet else could be happening so that it helped to factual. And we need to understand how much it costs to run that program. And So for example, and then it's not just the program. It's also the consequences. So if you say, well, it's an irrelevant, it's a just call. some people call diabetes and lifestyle disease, but, you know, if you're diagnosed with diabetes and you live with diabetes, You also have to make adjustments to your diet. You know? And so, you know, some of these implement implemented patient programs of programs say, well, you know, this is the vegetables you need to eat. This is this is the choices you need to make. And then here is the you know, medical advice we give you free sort of the program, and here's maybe access to the drug that you would not always have, which is great. And then in a case of Armenia, in the diabetes program, they said, let's let's analyze. Let's analyze how much it actually cost individual to change their diet. to a healthier diet. Mhmm. And we didn't have perfect data. So take my answer with, you know, my analysis with a grain of salt. However, we realized that it is more expensive for the individual to eat healthy and make those healthy lifestyle choices. than it actually is to run the program on a per capita basis. Wow. So and, like, even I hadn't thought about this before, like, you know, because I always live healthy, you know, and, like, I grew up like we had our own vegetables in our garden and lalalala. So, like, To me, like, I see the cost, but I it's just so it's so natural, and now I'm in such privileged position that I, you know, I don't have to make concessions in order to afford a healthy diet. But for many people, it is a massive concession. Right? So Like, we have to actually make the healthy choice, the easy choice as well. So it it's so anyway, so this is sort of set the stuff that we look at, you know, it's not just the cost of day, the medicines, it's also the lifestyle choices that we ask people to make on a daily basis come at a cost that sometimes we aren't even aware of.
Teri Schmidt [00:30:37]:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, what fascinating, rich, and important work that you're doing. Again, I I admire all that you're doing. And I wanna shift gears a little bit, though, because You have had so many experiences being a leader in different realms. So in academia, you know, in the public and international organizations, a lot of our listeners are female leaders or aspiring leaders And I'm curious since you have had this wealth of experience in different settings, what are your thoughts on how it's been to be a female leader in each of those arenas.
Andrea Feigl [00:31:21]:
Yeah. I love that question. And it's really funny for those of you who are listening in when, you know, Teri, when you said as a female leader in so many areas. And I'm like, I know I have to meet my company, but am I really a leader in all the outdoor places? Like, I don't know if that's the imposter syndrome or, like, The soddaint is to once they evaluate it. So, like, even if you missed it today, as you probably were capable than you think you are because you know, even if you own this podcast, there's no question whether you deserve to be here or not. So -- Anyways, you're not the first one to say that. So It's funny. Yeah. So I think that it was very fascinating to me because When I started the company and I started to fundraise where I had felt that among my peers in my field, I was recognized, you know, Andrea a good scientist. Andrea is a PhD. She can run analyses. You know, she's trustworthy. maybe she can manage a team. But then when I said, okay. Moneying an organization, people were like, why should anybody stew with money. Like, I literally one of my closest mentors was that I was like, why shouldn't anybody give you money? And, like, what do you know about health economics? And I'm like, what? You know, I mean, what what part of my role at an international organization as an economist doesn't qualify me to be an economist. Like, what what what else is it there? Please tell me. Yeah. And when we were fundraising in the 1st year, I remember, you know, having these conversations where people said, well, maybe maybe if you put a male on the board because we're a female on the board at the beginning, Yep. It put a mail on the board. We can, like, get you the money. It becomes or maybe just just ask your husband to be on the board and then then we're comfortable writing you that I was like,
Teri Schmidt [00:33:11]:
I'm holding in
Andrea Feigl [00:33:12]:
my reaction right now. and and and it's just again and again and again in the global health program at Harvard. I think there's 2 tenure track professors right now, little female. When I was there and we celebrated, I might have a cup even on my desk right now that's at 50 or global health program at the school of public health at, however, in the global health program, there was no tenured female professor. And when I started, there was no female tenure track, professor. There was one that was a fantastic researcher. She was given sort of a lecturer status. There was another one on some sort of thing else. And then when it came to You know, my my own researchers and and and mentors there. If you look at who of those professors who they gave their they shared should the professors get grants with the grants you can employ students, the students then use the data of the professor again on the publication of the professor, and it's very helpful when it comes to career building. Mhmm. Mhmm. When I looked at the professors, the on whom they shared their grant funding lists, and it's heavily skewed towards the male population. So All three papers that I wrote, 2 of which were published, and I had a kid while I was doing my PhD, and I was ahead of everybody else in order to, like, you know, be able to knock loose time despite, you know, being pregnant and and having a wonderful sum. So, basically, I funded everything. Like, I had to fight money borne by myself for the I had to find my data. I had to, you know, design my own research questions, and there was no, like, program. And I I was, you know, may you know, maybe I'm on good Who knows? But I was also made I was never made to feel that I could really do it as well. I could do what my professor doing. Like, I was never sitting in his office thinking, like, he trusted a mint, like, he he I never felt that he trusted me that I was intellectually capable of doing the research that was disarming to be. And I don't think that's true. No. You know? I mean, I don't know. You know, but back then, I thought it was true.
Teri Schmidt [00:35:32]:
Yeah. Yeah. I don't think that's
Andrea Feigl [00:35:34]:
But I don't I didn't have the feeling that I could also do it. You know?
Teri Schmidt [00:35:39]:
So how did you or how do you overcome that in your leadership.
Andrea Feigl [00:35:46]:
Yeah. I mean, I think that for me, it was also like I mean, one of the things is I didn't go into academia because I felt like you have to be in order to get a 10 year in one of the top institutions. You have to be, like, top 1% of your field. And I just shook. I was I was too scared, and I wasn't really into trust doing research for research sake. Mhmm. and I always knew that my heart was beating for policy. So I wasn't that wasn't my battle to pick at that point. Right? Like, at that point, I didn't feel like This is what I'm gonna cite. I'm gonna be the 1st female tenure track professor at an Ivy League global health. It's, you know, I wasn't gonna, like, I was that was not my site.
Teri Schmidt [00:36:27]:
Andrea Feigl [00:36:27]:
So I just basically, you know, I wanted to do some more qualitative work from my my dissertation, but I felt that the the qualitative forks could always be attacked. So I said, okay. I'm just gonna focus on numbers. Nobody can debate numbers. It might show good analysis. They have to let me pass.
Teri Schmidt [00:36:44]:
Andrea Feigl [00:36:44]:
is what it this is essentially what I did. Mhmm. And then, you know, I just kept curating my own connections. It's like, went down to DC, chilled my face. you know, and that's one of the meetings was at the World Bank, and then one of the people said, well, you know, we do have jobs here on chronic diseases, but there's one in do you wanna move to Paris? You don't wanna move to Paris, do you? And I was like, well, of course, but I moved to Paris. Meeting the program obviously helped. but just putting myself out there and not letting, you know, not letting those nos. Like, you know, I was just like, boy, these are nos. I need to find my asses. Right? Mhmm. And I had multiple no's, but I just needed to find my yeses, and that was a yes. And the first drop that I accepted, it was, you know, it was a high preset of World Bank and, like, I ended up with a job that helped me, but I was really unhappy about it. But mhmm. And then, you know, when I got an offer at the OECD, the first offered me half the salary to know it was making. And I said, no. I can't accept that. Mhmm. And then I said, okay. Well, you have to reapply. And I said, okay. I'm gonna reapply. I had reapplied, and he accepted me and gave me the, you know, match the salary that I was making. So, like, it's a little bit of a story of tenacity as well. And I said, like, always negotiate, you know, and just, like, I think putting yourself out there, and maybe I have to remind myself about that as well. Mhmm. But I wasn't afraid. I wasn't afraid to book myself out there. I think it is in the area. Like, if I was networking with a purpose, I always felt that, like, You know, I I always knew that I had, you know, enough credentials or enough, you know, work, you know, background to back me up comes up what it was networking. Right? So maybe y'all wasn't like the most stellar public health scientist that never has graced the earth. That's fine with me, but I knew I could still contribute. Right? I could still do meaningful work within the national organizations. I could still Focused on that area. I could still apply my skills, and I just tried to basically knock in many doors as many doors as possible and you know, looking back, I'm like, wow, I was so proactive back then maybe I have to maybe I have to find that spark again. You know? And then also, like, in biochemistry, I was like, I mean, that wasn't the lab, but it was we're seventy, and I was the only female research there. You know? And every time I entered late, they're like, the real moves go silent. You know? And I think that it also pro probably drove me away, but, you know, it's sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't. I don't know. I think that's the big way.
Teri Schmidt [00:39:17]:
Well, a few things I'm hearing, you know, first, I think you kind of pick your fights in a in a sense to use that expression in that, you know, you knew what you were passionate about. You knew what you wanted, and you also weighed, you know, how much of a fight. And, again, I'm putting that in quotation marks. But, you know, how much of your tenacity and your energy, you would need to use to make that happen. And it sounds like, you know, because you knew enough about where you wanted to go and what you were energized by, you know, what you were uniquely skilled to do that you were able to make those selections in a way that benefited you or at least limited the harm, perhaps, that that might have come to you. Some I heard that. And then I also heard the value of just building those relationships. purposefully with intention around you, both for support and for making sure that you were there when there were opportunities to be had.
Andrea Feigl [00:40:21]:
Yeah. Yeah. I think being front and center and doing good work. When it mattered, I think, really benefited me. Like, I mean, there were research papers that I bombed. They might've mastered. And I was like, okay. Fine. I'm not gonna fight with this professor anymore or whatever. You know? But I'm not gonna go into this line of research, so let's just skip that. But but, you know, in the things that really mattered. I always try to do a good job, and I think that now that I think we had over 35 interns go through, like, our internship program at the Health Finance Institute. And, you know, those that have that kind of go get her, let's just get good work down. That's not you know, attitude. These are the ones that, and, you know, like, one of our interns is going to an internship in a white house and and, you know, going on to another one is going to study to at their PhD program, they don't want us going to do work for USAID. And these are the individuals that would always be, like, making sure that, you know, they just show up. You know? Mhmm. And I I think I always try to, like, just show up when I felt that I wanted to work with person. I wanted to work in that career, and I tried to show up, you know, within the best, the best version of myself. You know? So I think that mainly has helped me build a really good network and also where it has started to help finance institute. You know, I was very I was like, okay. There's so many people working on HIV AIDS. Right? If I start to work on HIVAIDS after spending time in chronic diseases, nobody will nominate. Right? Mhmm. So there was a bit of a strategy as well. Like, I cared about this issue about chronic diseases, but I also knew already so many of the key policymakers key researchers. I had worked with them. I had spoken with them. I met them. Yeah. So and then when I started the institute, you know, I had a a role at of, like, we had this launch event. We had a panel at PMAC and we had the treasury union of South Africa and Ministry of Health from Kenya and another Ministry of Health and UNDP and WHO at that panel. You know, we just were, like, you know, like, we we were, like, 3 days old. You know? And then a couple months later, we had zero funding. I mean, that point, we had zero funding. And one foundation gave us free space in Geneva, the health, what health assembly. My head, it gave me everything. I gave me a pay. I remember I was, like, $6, but when he saw us a video paid on my credit card or something like that for our meeting. But we had the head of health of the World Economic Forum. We had a key fundraiser for For a global bond, we had just a head of health of the African union. We had the Egyptian Ministry of Health. And so so are others, you know, they came and spoke at our event, and he was sold out, you know, and we just launched. You know? And so I was able to, like, you go as those 10, 15 years of building the community and building that, you know, statistic rapport, if you will, and say, here it is. And people recognize that I have been working in this field. Mhmm. And Somehow it all came together. So yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't think it's just somehow it all keeps it up. It sounds pretty strategic and And, you
Teri Schmidt [00:43:32]:
know, like you said, you used your tenacity and your your strengths and did good work and showed up. I'm curious if you were sitting across the table from a woman who, you know, was just beginning her leadership journey. What what 1 or 2 pieces of advice would you give her to be like, I've heard you say, like, your own conduit of change. Like, what that would help her to do that.
Andrea Feigl [00:43:58]:
I think part of it is also, you know, listen to your gut. Right? Like, I think I'm in such a cliche thing. But I remember the day where I was like, I need to start this thing. You know, I was, you know, told to read this one book by Alan Watson. did a boo of knowing who you are. And and I looked at that title, and I'm like, I need to start this company. You know? And, you know, I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a team. I didn't have a money. Any money for it. And I was like, okay. I'm gonna try it. You know? And so I feel that kind of like, And then once you start something, it was really fascinating. We had, I think, the equivalent of 17 full full time interns or volunteers in the 1st year to set up the station. So once you start something with a good cause, people want to help. You know? Mhmm. Sometimes you just have to say, but here it is, now you can apply yourself. You know, here's to play ground and people will come. Right? Or here's the social impact playing on and people will come. And I think that was really very eye opening because the first time 1st month's end. We were like, so what do you do? And I was like, well, you know, I kind of run an organization and, you know, I don't know what to do. Yeah. I mean, we wanna do financing. I was so, like, timid about this. You know? But then I'm like, okay. People actually want to support this cause. You know? And so That was really eye opening to me. Like, I just had to start, and then people would come and support it. Mhmm. Mhmm. And so for this day, you know, which is amazing. and and, you know, this this wouldn't be what it is without everyone that has support, build it. And then I think the second thing is and this is, like, what I told myself when I go through, like, difficult phases, which there are many, like, Elon Musk had said, you know, running company is, like, you know, staring into your bits and eating glass shards. You know? And I'm like, maybe a muck. Just stick with that. You know, staring at the damn base while eating glass. Yeah. Well, I don't feel as bad about it because at least you have a Singapore trust So let's just aim. Right? So maybe he also threw more to social for justice based switch away from that quote. But at this, you know, the thing is, like, he says, you know, all the difficult decisions rests with you. Right? All the difficult decisions about the business rests with the person who runs the business, and that's you know, that's why you're the leader, but, like, it's it's the truth. Right? Right. So but then I'm, you know, I'm trying to, like, pre frame it and say, well, you know, I wouldn't, like, had it not taken the risk to do this. I wouldn't be presented with this up with this, you know, challenger growth opportunity, right, for whatever it's worth, maybe these these are the skills that I need to learn for the new initiative that we're launching for the next phase of growth, for the next fundraising, or something like that. So, you know, I think the ability to have these broad shoulders with challenges. Right? So I don't deal with conflict and challenges as well, so I need to mentally reframe it and do all that internal work.
Teri Schmidt [00:46:51]:
Well, those are great pieces of advice. Thank you. Well, I just wanna close with a question that we've been asking all guests recently, and that is what does strong leaders serve mean to you?
Andrea Feigl [00:47:03]:
Yeah. I love this question. And I think that I think of a personal note when I started this company, I said, you know, even, like, our focus is really to to help save more lives by having money spent in a way that are most deficient and meaningful for chronic disease prevention and control. So I think that you know, the whole organization is in service
Teri Schmidt [00:47:23]:
Andrea Feigl [00:47:23]:
Teri Schmidt [00:47:23]:
Andrea Feigl [00:47:24]:
on that mission. That being said, I think also for me, it is always being about at least supporting those who are supporting the work? Mhmm. And then I think it was yesterday after dropping my kid from camp, but was listening to one of the pot test episodes on, you know, the diaries of a CEO, and there was an interview, Saint John, who was the CMO of Netflix and several other organizations. And she said that her role is to basically build up the team and you know, help the creativity. It's, I guess, if we're gonna creative marketing -- Mhmm.
Teri Schmidt [00:48:00]:
Andrea Feigl [00:48:00]:
and build up those ideas and allow that, you know, allow good ideas among the team to fail, but then build the people back up if there's a failure. And I really like that, and I'm like, no. Maybe I should pick like, lead. I'll take note because I think she's describing this service as a leader Who do people around her? Mhmm. And I, you know, I think of our organization, like, find us that you could do something, perhaps, so the better is not just saying, like, how can we serve the world, but how can this organization also serve those that are working for it? so that we can serve the world better. So I think that's sort of where service comes in, and it's definitely something I'm kind of, like, chewing on right now as we're having this conversation. Mhmm.
Teri Schmidt [00:48:47]:
Well, I love that. I think that's a great place to end. We will definitely make sure that the Health Finance Institute Website gets in the show notes as well as your LinkedIn profile. Is there anywhere else that you'd like us to include if people are interested to learn more about you and your work?
Andrea Feigl [00:49:06]:
I think these are the the these are the 2 best sources.
Teri Schmidt [00:49:09]:
Excellent. Well, thank you again for coming on today and for the work that you do day in and day out and for following your gut and having that tenacity to support so many in our world.
Andrea Feigl [00:49:22]:
Thank you so much, Teri, and thanks for highlighting the Institute and my journey.