Avenel Joseph

Vice President, Policy

Avenel Joseph, PhD, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in early 2020 as the vice president for Policy. She brings a wealth of government, management, and political expertise to leading the Foundation’s Policy office and heading its Washington presence; serves as a key member of the Foundation’s senior leadership team; and guides, motivates, and inspires RWJF’s commitment to its policy and government engagement work to help build a Culture of Health, one that enables everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives.

With her background as a scientist turned health policy professional, Joseph values the use of science, data, and evidence to drive policy. In this regard, she praises the Foundation’s approach to improving health from an entire community perspective, including its focus on the social determinants of health and health equity. She also values and is excited about the Foundation’s emphasis on engaging and empowering affected communities to inform policy change at the national, state, and local level.

Previously, Joseph served for more than 10 years shaping public policy in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. She began her career on Capitol Hill in 2009 in the U.S. House of Representatives where she worked in both a personal office and on the Natural Resources Committee focusing on the intersection of health and the environment. In July 2013 she moved to the Senate as the chief health advisor for Senator Edward J. Markey, managing a comprehensive health care portfolio before transitioning to become his director of Policy and Oversight, where she oversaw and coordinated strategic planning and operations for the legislative team.

Throughout her career in policy, she has applied years of research and discovery in the biological sciences to inform her work crafting bipartisan proposals to improve health for all. In her positions serving the House and Senate she developed and advanced proposals to improve the safety of drugs and food, bolster treatment and resources to address the opioid epidemic, secure funding for flu vaccine and Alzheimer’s disease research, promote better chemical regulation and cleaner drinking water, and incentivize cleanup of contaminated lands for beneficial reuse.

Joseph received her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at Emory University; graduated with an MS in Developmental Toxicology from the University of Illinois, Urbana‐Champaign; and earned her BS in Animal Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University.

Born in Queens, N.Y., she now resides in Washington with her husband, an architect, and her two children. She enjoys reading fiction and nonfiction with her book club; loves travel and exploring new places with her family; and relishes discovering exotic foods and restaurants.

Avenel Joseph
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Commentary by Avenel

Paid leave and child care are fundamental to recovery

Fear of COVID-19 forces millions of workers to make the decision to "go to work sick so they can pay rent, buy food and afford child care, or prioritize their health and risk economic instability."