Khaliya is a Public Health Specialist Focusing on Mental Health
A Columbia University-trained public health specialist, is a leading advocate for mental health, a neuro-technologist, and a public health specialist. She’s also a former Peace Corps volunteer, and winner of both the 2016 Middelthon-Candler Peace Prize and the 2017 Clare Booth Luce Award for International Service. Khaliya is currently working on a book about the future of mental health. Her opinion pieces have been published in the New York Times (International and Domestic Editions) as well as WiredUK. A frequent public speaker, she has spoken at the Obama White House organized United States of Women Summit, the World Economic Forum's Family Business Summit, the Vatican, Clinton Global Initiative, WiredHealth, WebSummit and at the United Nations General Assembly, among others.
What brought you to Davos 2019?
As an expert for the World Economic Forum’s Futures Council on the Future of Health and Healthcare I advocated for the inclusion of mental health initiatives and wrote the first case study written (and accepted) by the WEF on the use of psychedelics for mental health treatment. As the youngest person on the Council, I had to fight quite strongly to have my voice heard to ensure that the Councils’ initiatives focused on innovative, but relatively inexpensive interventions. I wrote case studies on the use of MDMA for PTSD which could be of tremendous use in post conflict zones, of autonomous drones for medical supply deliveries in last mile health areas, and of blockchain for personal security (Guardian Circle/ #Guard Crypto). It was often difficult to convince the Council to include these initiatives due to their seniority and cohesion on enhancing more socially accepted initiatives like precision medicine or cancer treatments, despite the fact that these things will happen irrespective of whether we highlight their importance because of market incentives. I felt that as a Council of Experts focusing on the Future it was important to outline where we needed to go and how we might best get there. When I found out that, for the first time ever, there was going to be a talk on psychedelics at the WEF and that on top of that, there were to be two respected panels on mental health, one with Prince William and one with an organization United For Mental Health, it felt like a real win — that standing up for what I believed in and advocating for the underrepresented issues and roles, despite the many hurdles, had been worth it. I came to Davos to witness and celebrate the victory of persistent ideals and ideas.
Defining leadership moment at Davos:
To highlight the importance of the brain and mental health at Davos I helped organize a satellite gathering attended by over 200 people called the “Evolving Brain” that included talks by myself and multiple experts on mental health, brain health and Neurotech. The event was so popular that people could barely fit into the room and stayed on afterwards for several hours to talk with the experts and learn more. During the chaos of WEF it can be hard to get people to come at all to an event, let alone to stay on for hours! My partners and I in the Evolving Brain Initiative would like to create a physical space at Davos so that ideas about the brain and mental health can flourish and have a place where interested people can meet and work together or even just take a mental health “time-out.” I believe that mental health is a human right and that community and the architecture of place have as great of a role to play as biology in fostering that mental health. My husband, Thomas Ermacora, is a community architect and futurist so we started focusing on the intersection of our interests when we got married and we started a non-profit, Falkora, together to support this sort of work. Successfully throwing the first Evolving Brain Satellite event together as a couple felt like a real leadership moment for us and for our non-profit.
Personal motivation to advocate for women and girls:
My mother was a feminist so I was brought up to assume that I could do anything that I wanted if I was willing to work at it hard enough. What I have learned is the hardest part is to have the courage to stand up for yourself, particularly when others are trying to undermine you. This is where work alone can’t get you there, you must also have courage and the strength to withstand criticism. I gained courage in my own life from people – friends, mentors & advocates who lifted me up and I think it is my job as a woman to return the favor done to me by helping the next generation. I am forever grateful for the women in my life who have encouraged me and supported me and it is my greatest pleasure, and honor, to do the same for others. I want women and girls to succeed because I feel that the world needs more feminine influence. In most business situations, women are still in the minority which means we need to help each other to keep our voices heard so that the can make up for our smaller numbers with a larger megaphone.
Where can people learn more about you and your key projects?
Courage is contagious. Pass it on.