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Corey Peak: Eradicating Polio Across The Finish Line

Corey Peak: Eradicating Polio Across The Finish Line

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Corey, the senior program officer of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Let’s learn what’s happening at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and how Corey is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Corey! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?

Corey: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! I work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where we’re committed to fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. We call ourselves ‘impatient optimists’ – encouraged by the progress humanity has made and eager to accelerate it by making sure everyone shares in those gains. I’m part of a team and global effort to eradicate poliovirus. Eradicating a virus is hard – so hard that it’s only been done once before for a human disease. Eradicating smallpox is among the most impactful and inspiring things humanity has come together to accomplish. Our goal is to do the same with polio.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Corey: When I share that I work on polio eradication, many wonder aloud, “Didn’t we already do that?”. And they’re right, to an extent. The fact that polio is a distant memory, an antique relegated to history books, for billions of people is a sign of the tremendous progress so far and what’s possible for the future. It’s exactly what we want for everyone, everywhere, forever. I want to be part of the global team that finishes the job, ensuring that no family has to live in fear of polio ever again.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Corey: For years, this incredible, and incredibly challenging, goal has been just beyond our reach. It has required continued innovation and creativity – pitting our best ideas and technology against the virus’ attempts to ‘find a way’ and exploit the gaps in our society. Gaps in access to clean water and sanitation, gaps in education and gender equity, and gaps in access, limiting our ability to protect every last child with life-saving vaccines. The impact of our work is to narrow each of these gaps.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Corey: In 2020, the African region was certified as having successfully eliminated all three types of wild poliovirus. Having broken a continuous chain of transmission going back thousands of years, this achievement showed that eradication is possible and worthwhile, even in some of the most difficult places on earth. My very first project with the Gates Foundation was to help build the evidence base and consensus on this historic milestone.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Corey—it’s been an honor!

Dr. Corey Peak is senior program officer for Modeling and Analytics at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a private foundation headquartered in Seattle, WA. Previously, he was an epidemic intelligence service officer with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and completed his master and doctoral degrees in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (First published on the Ladderworks website on July 20, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.