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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carolina graduate named winner of 2017 TED prize

09raj-panjabi-2017-ted-prize-winner-high-resRaj Panjabi — who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and sociology from Carolina and is also a School of Medicine graduate — has won the 2017 TED Prize, awarded annually to a leader with a bold wish to spark global change.

Panjabi, a native of Liberia who fled civil war in his home country to the United States, returned in 2005 to Liberia and co-founded Last Mile Health in 2007. Panjabi serves as the chief executive officer at Last Mile Health and recruits, trains and equips people to become healthcare workers and provide primary healthcare in their communities in Liberia.

“I’m shocked and humbled, because I feel in many ways our work is only just beginning,” Panjabi told TEDBlog. “But it feels very right to me that this cause is worthy of the TED community’s efforts. Illness has been universal for the entire length of human history — but universal access to care has not been. Now, because of the advances in modern medical science and technology over the past 50 to 100 years, we have the chance to end that inequality.”

Every year since 2005, the nonprofit TED has issued an annual prize, providing honorees with $1 million to accomplish their “wish” — a powerful, world-changing idea of their choosing. Previous honorees include Bono and chef Jamie Oliver.

Panjabi told Time magazine he will work on refining his wish with the TED team and will announce his vision at the 2017 TED Conference in April.

Information from TEDBlog and Time magazine was used in this story.