Naveen Rao formal portrait, 2013.

Dr. Naveen Rao

Team Lead, MSD for Mothers

“When a mother dies during childbirth the ripple effect on her family, her community and her nation is devastating. Safe Motherhood week is a great example of what can be achieved when governments, private sector and civil society come together with one focus – to find solutions that can help save our mothers.”
Dr. Rao leads Merck for Mothers, Merck & Co., Inc.’s signature initiative to reduce maternal mortality around the world. In this capacity, Dr. Rao is responsible for leveraging the company’s science and business expertise to accelerate progress in reaching Millennium Development Goal 5 and advancing Merck’s mission to improve and save lives.

Dr. Rao returned to the United States in 2011 after six years in India, most recently serving as Head of Medical Affairs for Merck’s Asia-Pacific region. Prior to that role, he served as Managing Director MSD Pharmaceuticals Ltd., India, a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. During his tenure, the subsidiary grew substantially and won many awards. Earlier as the Medical Director of the newly formed MSD Pharmaceuticals Ltd., he established centers of excellence in clinical research, medical affairs and regulatory affairs. Dr. Rao has held numerous leadership positions at Merck & Co., Inc., including Executive Medical Director, Specialty Products, prior to moving to Asia.

“When a mother bleeds to death, a nation bleeds to death.”

From Dr. Rao’s perspective, when a mother dies, it’s an indication of a system failure. As a result, collective action is needed to solve the problem. Acting individually, neither the private sector, nor the public sector, nor even industry or business can take responsibility for reducing maternal mortality.

What keeps me going is the opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives. When you save the mother, you save the family”

A trained medical professional from India, Dr. Rao is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He was Associate Director, Department of Medicine at Beekman Downtown Hospital and practiced Internal Medicine in New York City for 10 years prior to joining Merck & Co., Inc. in 1993.

Dr. Rao is a member of the Board of Overseers of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and chairs the Maternal Health Pillar of the MDG Health Alliance, an effort supporting UN agencies to improve the health of women and children.

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