Dr. Mukesh Kapila

Dr Kapila is a senior public and global health specialist. He has medical and postgraduate qualifications in medicine and public health from the Universities of Oxford and London.

He is chief executive of The Defeat-NCD Partnership. He has extensive experience in the policy and practice of international development, global health, diplomacy, disaster and conflict management, human rights and humanitarian affairs. Dr Kapila also holds the position of Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs, University of Manchester.

Previously, he was undersecretary general at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Earlier in his career, Dr Kapila served the United Nations in different roles as special adviser at the UN Mission in Afghanistan, and then special adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. He also had a spell at the World Bank. Subsequently, he led the UN’s largest country mission in 2003-4 as the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan, before becoming a director at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Prior to working at the UN, Dr Kapila was at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Overseas Development Administration (subsequently Department for International Development), initially as a senior health and population adviser and later as the first head of a new Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department that he set up.

His earliest career was in clinical medicine, primary health care, and public health in the British National Health Service in Oxford, Cambridge, and London, where he helped set up the UK’s first national HIV and AIDS programme at the Health Education Authority, becoming its deputy director.

Other roles have included Chair of Minority Rights Group International, Chair of Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Special Adviser to the 2016 UN World Humanitarian Summit. Awards and honours include a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II, the Global Citizenship Award of the Institute for Global Leadership, the “I Witness!” award for human rights, and a special resolution of the California State Legislature for “lifetime achievements and meritorious service”. His memoir “Against a Tide of Evil” was nominated for the CWA’s 2013 “Best Non-Fiction Book”. His next book is provisionally entitled “The Kindness of Strangers”.

Dr Kapila is based in Geneva.

Mukul Bhola

Mukul Bhola has more than 17 years of experience as a passionate humanitarian and development practitioner. Specializing in leading crisis response operations, partnership development and resource mobilisation, he manages The Defeat-NCD Partnership’s global operations–including the development and roll-out of The Defeat-NCD Partnership Marketplace, and its Innovative Financing Facility, for resource-poor countries.

Prior to co-founding The Defeat-NCD Partnership, Mukul headed the Geneva Liaison Office for the Partnerships Group at UNOPS and was also responsible for managing the UNOPS-DFID partnership–growing it to an unprecedented US $250 million of new programmes signed in 2018. Mukul began his UN career with UNIC in New Delhi in 2000, before moving on to work with UNDP on the Gujarat Earthquake recovery programme, and subsequently its Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery. He co-led–on behalf of the ILO–four joint UN-World Bank post-disaster needs assessments to Bangladesh, Haiti, Madagascar, and Myanmar, and while at ILO was seconded to UNISDR to develop the first biennial joint work programme for the strengthened UNISDR system.

With a first-class honours degree in economics, Mukul is highly experienced in working with big data. He spent over five years at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, where he set up the Federation-wide Databank and Reporting System, and established Everyone Counts–IFRC’s annual flagship publication on the results of 189 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. There he also held varied roles in strategy and programme development in both Switzerland and Kenya, as well as serving as head of operations for the Ebola reponse based in Guinea during 2014/2015.

Mukul is a volunteer and life member of the Indian Red Cross and in 2017 he was requested to support the co-development of their transformational Strategy 2030.

Born in Mauritius, Mukul is married and speaks English, French, German, Hindi and Punjabi.

Vera Siesjö

Vera Siesjö has over ten years of international experience in public health, health systems, quality and process improvement, eHealth and health financing.

Passionate about global health, she was formerly country director of ACCESS Health International in the Philippines and Indonesia, where she initiated projects on health financing, healthcare quality improvement, eHealth, healthcare management and health policy and system research.

Siesjö also served as a health system consultant to the Asian Development Bank where she led work on people-centered healthcare and health system integration.

Previously, Siesjö led projects for the Centre for Health Market Innovations, an international network that acts to promote and connect innovative health care solutions, and for the Joint Leaning Network for Universal Health Coverage, a network of practitioners and policymakers from 30 countries around the globe that focuses on advancing UHC in low- and middle-income countries.

She held the position of international project manager for a press agency, producing country reports for The Economist, The Times and USA Today in Mexico, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Her earliest career was in clinical psychology, primary health care and public health in public hospitals in Argentina, where as a programme manager she helped set up an integrated model of primary healthcare and mental health.

After earning a Master’s of Science in Psychology degree from the University of Palermo, Argentina, Siesjö obtained a Master’s in International Public Health from the University of Sydney.

Dr. Gaurav Kumar

Dr Gaurav Kumar is a senior public health professional with over a decade of experience working with national and state governments, providing advice and support in designing and implementing a variety of public health solutions in the areas of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), tobacco control, tuberculosis and polio surveillance.

With a focus on health system strengthening and supporting governments in low-resource countries for scaling up action on NCDs, Dr. Kumar is especially interested in hypertension control. In an earlier assignment, he led the India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHMI) in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh launching the intervention in focus states in India.

Dr. Kumar started his career in public health as Surveillance Medical Officer (SMO) in the WHO-National Polio Surveillance Project in one of the worst affected districts. He later held challenging managerial positions in USAID, BMGF and Global Fund projects. As Program Manager for Global Fund’s project ‘Axshya’ with one of the grant recipients, he led a team of over 200 personnel in 62 districts and seven states for community-based intervention coupled with private sector engagement. Dr. Kumar’s program management strengths include developing frameworks for smooth and effective coordination between technical, finance and administrative teams.

He has contributed as an expert to monographs developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Government of India), World Health Organization and National Cancer Institute. He is a recipient of awards at both the national and international level, in addition to being a prolific author with publications in reputed international journals and abstracts presented at leading global conferences.

A medical doctor, Dr. Kumar holds further specialization with a Master’s of Public Health degree, for which was awarded honours for academic excellence.

Alexis Munier

Alexis Munier is a journalist who brings two decades of global health, current affairs, and consumer goods experience to her role at The Defeat-NCD Partnership.

A type 1 diabetic since childhood, Munier co-authored What to Do When the Doctor Says It’s Diabetes (Fair Winds Press, 2004), a guide to managing all types of the chronic illness. She considers diabetes and other NCDs a global health time bomb and is committed to ensuring universal health coverage (UHC).

Munier’s professional background encompasses strategic communications, digital marketing, and public advocacy. At Vestergaard, a leader in disease-control textiles, she was in charge of spearheading global advocacy activities for malaria and water-borne illnesses, as well as producing traditional media and film content.

From 2012-2013, Munier served as editorial manager at the World Economic Forum where she led communications for the Risk Response Network and managed the launch of the Global Risks Report 2013 in addition to reporting from Davos. Continuing her work in content creation and external communications, Munier has spent the past few years as editor-in-chief for a Swiss news magazine as well as consulting for clients in both the public and private sectors.

With degrees in Russian studies and music performance, Munier completed her postgraduate education in media and public relations at the University of Leicester, UK.

Raised in California, Munier is a dual Swiss-American citizen and speaks French, English, German and Russian. A classically trained soprano, she still performs regularly on the concert stage in Europe.

Dr Layal Barjoud

Dr Layal Barjoud, special assistant, works directly with Chief Executive Dr Mukesh Kapila. She is a medical doctor who brings seven years of humanitarian field experience, six years of medical practice, and vast public health knowledge to The Defeat-NCD Partnership.

She practiced medicine in front-line hospitals and struggled due to the lack of adequate equipment and infrastructure, the effect of war-related injuries, and the increasing number of chronic diseases suffered by the civilian population, especially internally displace persons (IDPs). Dr Barjoud has seen face to face how diabetes and other NCDs can make patients and their families suffer mentally, physically, and financially.

Dr Barjoud worked as a health field offer with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria, where she addressed one of the most severe medical crises of our time. During her time with ICRC and with ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), and other local organisations, she managed projects in two of Syria’s biggest governorates and provided analysis of both political and public health development issues.

Early in her career, Dr Barjoud spent a year working in a neurology department, followed by a year in an emergency department. She treated patients in an intensive care unit for diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperglycemia, pneumonia, renal failure, strokes and coma, amongst other conditions. Dr Barjoud also spent two years teaching medical students in the physiology lab at Homs Medical School.

In addition to her professional experience, Dr Barjoud had participated in many volunteering initiatives. When Homs was under siege in 2012, she set up and coordinated a community centre run by group of volunteers, as well as creating a drug abuse prevention group.

Stella Tan

Stella Tan is a public health graduate with more than three years of research experience in NCDs, as well as more than a year’s experience in policy advocacy for women’s rights.

Prior to joining The Defeat-NCD Partnership, she worked with a leading women’s rights NGO in Malaysia as a research and policy officer. She has experience engaging with governments, foreign missions, academia, think tanks, and NGOs, and has implemented international law and policy standards to advance women’s rights in Malaysia. She also conducted research in domestic violence to develop evidence-based policy recommendations for the government. Additionally, Stella worked with UN human rights instruments such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Stella worked as a research associate with the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH), conducting research in the area of NCDs. She has led an intervention study on obesity among urban school children in Kuala Lumpur, with the aim to improve physical activity and weight outcomes. She has also supported research projects in the area of breast cancer, prostate cancer as well as adolescent psychiatric morbidity.

In addition, Stella had assignments with the National Cancer Society Malaysia and UNDP Malaysia. With the former, she consulted on research projects related to smoking cessation among adolescents, while with UNDP Malaysia, she was a rapporteur working with the bottom 40% income groups to obtain insights regarding their livelihood concerns, contributing towards more equitable and inclusive economic policy making.

Stella holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. She was trained in classical piano and ballet, and enjoys traveling during her free time. She is fluent in English, Mandarin and Malay.

Rolana Karkoutli

Rolana Karkoutli is a specialist in e-learning with extensive experience in program development. At Defeat-NCD, she supports Deputy CEO Mukul Bhola, including operations and procurement.

She spent more than five years at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, where she focused on instructional design, animation, and dissemination of e-learning modules in various languages. Previously, Karkoutli held the position of e-learning project assistant at the International Committee of the Red Cross, developing both online and face-to-face training platforms.

Before the switch to global health, Karkoutli worked in events management for several global brands including Max Factor. She was responsible for media booking, marketing research, and PR for IPSOS-STAT and Impact BBDO Group in Syria.

Karkoutli holds two Master of Science degrees—one in advanced teaching and learning technologies from the University of Geneva, and the other in pedagogic studies from the University of Damascus. At the latter she also earned a bachelor’s in French literature and she has completed diplomas in business French and statistical research.

The Syrian national relocated to Geneva more than a decade ago, where she spends her free time teaching Arabic, oil painting and spending time with her family.