Dr. Satchit Balsari is an assistant professor in emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). Since 2009, he has been affiliated with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, where his research has contributed to advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations affected by disasters and crises.

His interests in mobile technology, disaster response, and population health have been informed by his clinical practice in the United States and his field work around the world. His research has resulted in innovative applications of mobile, cloud-based technology to address public health challenges in mass gatherings, disasters, and humanitarian crises.

Dr. Balsari co-teaches several courses across Harvard University that focus on developing innovative solutions to global crises, as well as the socio-economic challenges that come with them.

In addition to this, he is director of the Climate and Human Health Fellowship, which is co-hosted by the BIDMC Department of Emergency Medicine, the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the FXB Center.

Societal Response to Disaster

Through an in-depth examination of domestic and international disasters, this course introduces clinicians, policy makers, public health practitioners, and disaster responders to the key principles of decision making in crises. Case studies have been written by course faculty and students. We study a wide range of disasters including fires, floods, cyclones, industrial explosions, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, the pandemic, as well as methods to ascertain the impact of these disasters on morbidity and mortality. 

Every year, we choose from a repository of cases that include the Cocoanut Grove Fire, the Soviet Armenian Earthquake, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Maria, Cyclone Bhola, the Kumbh Mela stampede, Philadelphia Move bombings, Tianjin industrial explosion, Fukushima Triple Disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Students prepare an in-depth analysis, describing something new about a disaster of their choosing.

This course has been continuously running for over 30 years, and is co-directed by Doctors Satchit Balsari and Jennifer Leaning.

Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social Problems

This course demonstrates that reflecting upon the nature of the developing world’s intractable problems through different lenses helps characterize candidate interventions to address them: the scientist’s hypothesis-driven and iterative experimentation, the artist’s imagined counterfactuals through putting oneself in others’ shoes literally and theatrically, and the planner’s top-down articulation of boundary conditions.

The course is divided into five modules: an introduction that reviews various approaches to development and explores the importance of understanding problem-contexts; three thematic modules, each taught by a leader in their respective fields, which introduce the entrepreneurial lenses of the artist, scientist, and planner; and a concluding module that applies lessons learnt throughout the semester to specific problem contexts. The case study discussions included in these modules will cover challenges and solutions in fields as diverse as health, education, technology, urban planning, and arts and the humanities.

In the course of the semester, all students will divide into teams that will each develop a business plan or grant proposal to tackle a chosen problem in a specific developing country and/or region.

The course is co-taught with faculty from business (co-director, Professor Tarun Khanna), the humanities (Professor Doris Sommer), computer science (Professor Krzysztof Gajos), and urban planning and design (Professor Rahul Mehrotra).

Global Health Emergencies

This course was taught for five years in New York City by over 20 world experts, to a highly selective group of 40 resident and mid-career physicians and public health practitioners from around the world.

This 72-CME credit course was offered over an intensive two-week period and included fireside chats and volunteering in underprivileged communities in New York.

mHealth ToolBox

This innovation digital health design thinking course was inaugurated in South Africa and run at the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Annual Conferences for several years.

Emergency Management Exercises

These week-long, city-wide disaster drills trained paramedics, police, fire personnel, hospital administrators and clinicians in the principles of disaster triage, through large scale simulations and table-top exercises. These drills were conducted in Sri Lanka during the air-raids on Colombo in 2008, in Mumbai, weeks before the terrorist attacks in the city, and elsewhere in India for several years, until they were adopted and institutionalized by the National Disaster Management Authority of India.

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