January 30, 2024
Media contact: Joe Shaffner, Director of Communications, The Population Council, 

New York City, NY, Washington, DC – On January 17th, 2024, WomenLift Health announced Chelsea Polis and Waimar Tun as participants in the 2024 North America Cohort of the Leadership Journey. The Population Council’s Polis and Tun bring years of experience researching global sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, contraception, abortion, and infertility.  

“We are incredibly proud of Polis and Tun for their selection, a reflection of the many achievements so far in their careers,” said the Population Council’s Interim Co-President and General Counsel Patricia C. Vaughan. “Both women have already demonstrated remarkable leadership skills in the global SRH sector, and we at the Council are excited to see how they expand their leadership capabilities through the program.”  

WomenLift Health’s Leadership Journey recognizes and engages emerging leaders in the global healthcare industry and provides training to support these women through their journeys into senior leadership roles. The year-long program encourages and supports mid-career women through authentic and impactful leadership training.  

Waimar Tun is a senior associate at the Population Council. Tun leads implementation science research on HIV and AIDS in Africa and the U.S. Her research focuses on identifying and overcoming barriers to HIV treatment and prevention in vulnerable communities. 

“I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be part of the WomenLift Health Leadership journey,” said Tun. “As an Asian-American woman, I am acutely aware of the intersectional barriers that many women like myself encounter in leadership roles. This journey is an opportunity for me to have more of an impact in an area I am truly passionate about…bridging gaps in health equity. I am particularly looking forward to engaging with and learning from this diverse and accomplished group of women leaders as we work towards making a difference in the global health space.” 

Chelsea Polis is a senior scientist of epidemiology at the Center for Biomedical Research (CBR) at the Population Council. Polis serves on CBR’s leadership team where she advises on reproductive health product development.  

“I am so honored to follow in the footsteps of several colleagues who have participated in this remarkable program, which aims to address gender inequalities in global health leadership,” said Polis. “Globally, women hold about 70% of health worker jobs, but only 25% of leadership roles – and this hampers not only the individual aspirations of many talented women, but our collective progress as a society, as we are not yet leveraging the full power of ensuring a diversity of perspectives at decision-making tables. I am inspired by WomenLift’s mission to empower women to step more confidently into their roles as leaders, to equip them to support other women to do the same, and to prime global health organizations to serve as enabling environments for advancing gender equity – all of which enables our field to more effectively serve the public.”  

With a Ph.D. and Master of Health Science in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University, Tun is an epidemiologist and social behavioral scientist with 20 years of experience in implementation science and research. She has dedicated years of her research addressing the specific challenges vulnerable and historically marginalized communities face, specifically persons with disabilities, people who inject drugs, sex workers, girls and young women, and sexual and gender minorities. 

With a Ph.D. in reproductive health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and her undergraduate degree in medical anthropology from Brown University, Polis is a reproductive health epidemiologist with 20 years of experience leading research on sexual and reproductive health and has received international recognition for her work protecting scientific integrity.  

We look forward to the work Polis and Tun will accomplish in WomenLift Health’s Leadership Journey.  We also commend the remarkable women who, over the years, WomenLift Health has selected to participate in their Leadership Journey. We are particularly pleased to highlight the achievements of the Population Council’s Beth Kangwana who participated in the 2023 East Africa Cohort, Sanyukta Mathur who took part in the 2023 North America Cohort, and Esther Lwanga Walgwe who was selected for the 2022 East Africa Cohort. We are proud of the leadership capabilities these women at the Council demonstrate in their work every day and their dedication to expanding their leadership skills as they advance in their careers.  


About the Population Council 

The Population Council is a leading research organization dedicated to building an equitable and sustainable world that enhances the health and well-being of current and future generations. We generate ideas, produce evidence, and design solutions to improve the lives of people around the world. Learn more at