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Nathan Furukawa

Fighting for Equity Through his Passion for Medicine and Public Health


Nathan’s journey encompasses many different stops — from Montana to Seattle and Cape Town — before arriving at the Humanity in Action New York Fellowship in 2009.

Understanding the experience of being ‘the other’, Nathan’s interest in medicine shifted from a fascination with physiology to a desire to use medicine as a tool to correct injustice and inequity.

By virtue of being of mixed Japanese and Chinese ancestry and growing up in Montana, he became familiar with the experience of being perceived as an outsider, and in some instances, being a canvas for others to project their labels and preconceptions. He initially dreamed of being a doctor due to his fascination with the complexity of human biology, which led him to study biochemistry at Seattle University. This dream shifted through his experiences volunteering at the county safety-net hospital in Seattle, Harborview Medical Center, and in a convalescent home for children orphaned by HIV in Cape Town, South Africa. Through these experiences, he realized how health is mostly determined by the social, economic, and political factors that influence early life.

Understanding the experience of being ‘the other’, Nathan’s interest in medicine shifted from a fascination with physiology to a desire to use medicine as a tool to correct injustice and inequity.

  • Nathan Furukawa

Nathan began to see the parallels between South African apartheid and American segregation, their sexual violence and our misogyny, and our collective widening inequality and inadequate public response to mitigate these social ills. Again, his passions shifted toward public health and wanting to use medicine and epidemiology as a tool to improve the health of individuals and populations. As Nathan began to deeply understand the drastic health consequences of economic deprivation, social exclusion, and inequality, he searched for experiences to broaden his understanding of social equity and human rights. His search led him to the Humanity in Action Fellowship. For Nathan, the best thing about the Humanity in Action Fellowship was

“The community of brilliant Fellows it brought together and the vibrant environment of inventive ideas, lively debate, and critical thinking it fostered.”

Nathan FurukawaWhether they were exploring the community and infrastructure challenges posed by economic development and gentrification or arguing about the role of and extent to which governments should redressing past inequities, there was a deep respect for the life experiences and knowledge each Humanity in Action Fellow brought to the program.

Nathan is currently a medical officer at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has worked on expanding access to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and hepatitis C treatment, improving the care of people who inject drugs, containing Ebola through border health screening, and responding to the coronavirus pandemic. This work represents the intersection of his passion for medicine, public health, care for vulnerable populations and human rights. To say it is his dream job is an understatement!

“The Humanity in Action Fellowship broadened my understanding of how individuals can go about enacting social change.”

Nathan also makes sure to give back to Humanity in Action. He helps review HIA applications and is a regular speaker at HIA fellowship programs and conferences. Nathan is happy to connect with many Fellows and Senior Fellows who are interested in the intersection of social equity and health.

Check out some of Nathan’s recent publications:

  • Furukawa NW, Zhu W, Huang YA, Shrestha RK, Hoover KW. National Trends in Drug Payments for HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis in the United States, 2014 to 2018 : A Retrospective Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2020;10.7326/M20-0786. Available here.
  • Furukawa NW, Brooks JT, Sobel J. Evidence Supporting Transmission of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 While Presymptomatic or Asymptomatic. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(7):e201595. Available here..

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