In Memory of Elif Yavuz

September 27, 2013

Wednesday, for me, was a day of both joy and sadness. That morning, amidst the excitement of UN General Assembly (UNGA) week, we launched our report More Health for the Money on the Global Fund in New York to a happy audience. But that afternoon a somber event was held at Harvard School of Public Health in memory of Elif Yavuz, my friend, classmate, and colleague. Elif and her partner Ross Langdon, both 33, and their unborn baby, were among the many killed at Westgate in Nairobi, Kenya.  The lives of so many people in our small global health and development circle – who like Elif had the wish to help others – were cut short in Westgate.

Just a few months ago in June, Elif had finished her doctor of science degree from Harvard, before starting a job soon thereafter at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Her dissertation, entitled “Effective Malaria Control in Uganda:  Examining Aspects of Treatment and Prevention in a New Policy Context,” was outstanding. While living in Uganda, Elif examined a new policy initiative in which effective anti-malarial treatment was subsidized (similar to the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria, the AMFm) and its effects on adherence and on the use of long-lasting bed nets (she found substitution between the two!). Together we had written a brief comment published in The Lancet on the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria housed at the Global Fund. 

Elif’s gifts to this world, however, are hardly be expressed by her work alone. As many have described so eloquently, Elif had an unforgettable energy and infectious sense of humor and warmth, which when combined with her smarts and work ethic were so inspiring. She was one of the most hard-working people I knew, yet she was so kind-hearted and down to earth. She was loved by many, and she will be missed. With her infectious kindness and her sharp wit, she ventured to make the world a better place – and she did.

Many friends of Elif, including the ones in DC, wish to do something in honor of her life. I regret that, though I had invited her to present her work at CGD, she moved out of the US before it happened. We hope to organize a research seminar in memory her and her work in the future. I hope you will join us. 


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.