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Mannan Akhtar

Improving Health Through the Indian Administrative Services 

As an ethnic minority in the Indian state of Assam during a decades-long separatist movement, Mannan Akhtar grew up acutely aware of the suffering experienced by family, friends, and neighbors. The deep empathy he developed as a child helped steer him to medical school as an adult.

He attended Gauhati Medical College, a school in Assam’s capital. After graduation, he took a job working in the hospital associated with the medical school in the Department of Respiratory Medicine, which collaborated with India’s National Tuberculosis Control Program. There, a mentor suggested that Akhtar might be well suited to a career in public health. 

“ I am passionate about alleviating human misery and find that access to good public health is the most fundamental human right.”

Inspired by this idea, Akhtar took his country’s civil services exam, qualifying for a post as an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer. For the past 12 years, he has worked for the IAS in developing, implementing, and evaluating a variety of public health programs. His work in conserving groundwater, improving urban sanitation, and screening for childhood diseases earned him recognition and national awards. When COVID-19 struck, he organized and managed health care provision, testing, and vaccine delivery.

More recently, Akhtar led efforts in Uttar Pradesh to digitize the state’s health care system. He oversaw a team that created millions of unique health IDs for residents linked with electronic health records and onboarded 29,000 ​​​​health facilities in the new system.

An MPH from the Bloomberg School will help him continue to improve India’s health system and develop new ideas from international colleagues. “I believe my calling is in public health,” he says, “and I will always look for new ways to contribute.”