LOS ANGELES, CA – More than 400 people celebrated Jhpiego’s half a century of saving lives worldwide at its annual gala Monday that honored filmmaker Shawn Levy and his wife, Serena, and comedian Hasan Minhaj and his wife, Dr. Beena Patel Minhaj, for their commitment to quality health care for all.
Dr. Leslie Mancuso, Jhpiego’s CEO and President, warmly welcomed the crowd in the Beverly Wilshire ballroom and, as an introduction to the global health non-profit and Johns Hopkins University affiliate, invited the audience to “imagine a world where every woman has access to basic healthcare.
“Where every couple can decide if and when they want to have a child,” she said. “Where every teenager is armed with the knowledge they need to make healthy choices for their body and their future. This is where change begins. With thinking big. With believing the impossible is possible. Jhpiego doesn’t just imagine this world. We’ve been creating it for 50 years.”
Actress Jennifer Garner presented Jhpiego’s Elyse Bila Ouedraogo Award to the Levys who thanked the organization for the honor and its service to improve the health of women and families no matter their circumstances. The award honors a nurse from Burkina Faso who screened thousands of women for cervical cancer before dying of the disease.
“The work Jhpiego does is changing lives one by one. Which is of course how global change happens. In quiet but mighty ways,” said Serena, a child development specialist who visited Jhpiego’s work in India and saw firsthand its impact on the health of mothers, babies and youth.
“As parents of four daughters, the rights of females are at the heart of our family’s values, and imparting to our girls a strong, confident sense of what they need and what they deserve – it’s everything, and the same values sit at the core of Jhpiego’s mission,” added Shawn, the prolific filmmaker of the multi-Oscar-nominated “Arrival,” hit movies “Free Guy,” “The Adam Project,” the highly anticipated “Deadpool 3,” and the award-winning Netflix series “Stranger Things.” “It means so much to us that you’ve shown up for us and more importantly for Jhpiego.”
Earlier in the evening, producer and film maker Kent Alterman presented Jhpiego’s Visionary Award to Hasan Minhaj, a two-time Peabody Award-winning comedian, and his wife, Beena, Executive Director of Vituity Cares Foundation. The Minhajs are passionate advocates for equitable health care for women, men and their families.
In accepting the award, Minhaj joked about the reason people attend such events – “because we love charity and tax loopholes” – and then struck a serious tone in introducing his wife Beena, as “one of the most inspiring people in my life.” Dr. Minhaj described Jhpiego’s work in 40-plus countries as the “north star” for public health professionals like herself: “I have spent the past 15 years helping undeserved communities access health care because it’s a human right. I hope to be able to continue this work for many years to come.”
The Laughter Is the Best Medicine Gala, which brings together Hollywood stars, studio executives and global health experts, highlights the work of Jhpiego’s staff all over the world, in addition to the philanthropic and humanitarian contributions of the honorees.
An evening of celebration and inspiration, comedians Tom Papa and Nick Kroll entertained the crowd. Indian dancers performed as part of the night’s focus on India. Jhpiego’s Indrani Kashyap, a global health professional, shared the innovative work underway in India, her home country, and progress to date. Red carpet appearances included actress Evangeline Lilly, Scott Stuber, Netflix’s head of Global Films, actress-model Molly Sims and “Stranger Things” creators, the Duffer Brothers, as well as cast members Noah Schnapp and Brett Gelman.
A lively auction offered bidders the chance to attend the premiers of “Deadpool 3” and the final season of the popular, “Stranger Things.” All gala proceeds go toward improving the health and well-being of women and their families in the developing world.
In closing her remarks, Dr. Mancuso thanked the Levys and Minhajs for their support of Jhpiego, saying, “You’ve brought together a ballroom full of people who love you, and because of you, are here to support Jhpiego’s work. I’m so grateful to each of you for sharing your time, talent and compassion with us.”