Helen is Chair of the MedAccess Board of Directors and a member of the Nominations and Governance Committee.
Professor Rees is a global health leader who has dedicated her life to improving the health of people in low- and middle-income countries through her research and her contribution to global health policy.
Professor Rees started her career as a family doctor in the UK before moving to South Africa to provide medical assistance to communities denied access during apartheid. In 1994, she founded the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) to expand African-generated research into HIV, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, reproductive health and vaccines. Professor Rees remains the Institute’s Executive Director.
Professor Rees chairs and is a member of several World Health Organization (WHO) committees and working groups, including the African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group and the WHO Emergency Committee on Polio. She served on the Board of Gavi and is a former chair of the Vaccine Alliance’s Programme and Policy Committee. Professor Rees is also the board chair of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.
Drawing on her leadership of Wits RHI and her expertise in global health governance, Professor Rees supported South Africa’s COVID-19 response through her role on the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. She remains a member of the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. In 2022 she received the platinum South African National Batho Pele Award for excellence in contribution to the South African COVID-19 response.
Professor Rees obtained her Medical Degree and Master’s in Social and Political Sciences from New Hall (now Murray Edwards) College at Cambridge. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School (HBS) having completed the HBS Senior Executive Programme.
Professor Rees is internationally renowned for her research into HIV and reproductive health, with more than 250 published academic papers to her name. She is an Honorary Professor at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an Honorary Fellow of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge and has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science (Medicine) by the University of London.
Professor Rees was awarded the OBE in 2001, the South African National Order of the Baobab in 2015 and the French National Order of Merit in 2022.