Dr. Richard Heinzl

We live in a borderless world. Follow what you love. There is a world waiting for you out there.

Founder of Doctors Without Borders, Canada

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Dr. Richard Heinzl | Founder of Doctors Without Borders, Canada
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Richard Heinzl is the founder of Doctors Without Borders Canada: the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that has inspired a movement among medical professionals to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. Modest and deeply passionate, he shares stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the midst of war and other challenges—and how technology is changing the face of medicine around the globe. 

In 1988, just out of medical school, Richard Heinzl founded the first North American chapter of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organization. Shortly thereafter he became its first field volunteer, spending an extraordinary year in remote Cambodia. (These experiences are movingly captured in his memoir, Cambodia Calling.) Hundreds of volunteers have since followed in his footsteps, bringing their healing skills to help many of the world’s most vulnerable people. For his work, Heinzl has been named one Report on Business’ Top 40 Under 40.


“If I can share one lesson with you, it would be to follow what you love. Any one of you can dream up a country you want to go to, or an idea that you want to make happen, or a program that you want to create ... there is a world waiting for you.”

— Richard Heinzl

Today, Dr. Heinzl continues to work with DWB/MSF on technology issues as an advisor on their Telemedicine Advisory Committee. He is also the new Global Medical Director of the Boston-based, Harvard-affiliated WorldCare International: a leader in providing access to quality second opinions from physicians at some of the world’s top academic medical centers. A renowned speaker, Dr. Heinzl shares his stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the midst of war and other challenges. 

Speech Topics

Public Health
Inspiring New Innovations in Health Care Technology

Nearly 30 years ago, Richard Heinzl was an early volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, working in remote locations far from resources and assistance. There, he and his colleagues would dream of what technology would one day do for medicine. And as cell phones and the Internet spread throughout the developing world—meaning images could be sent and received from anywhere, anytime—he began to watch those dreams become reality. He saw first-hand how telemedicine would spark a dramatic transformation in health care: geography, once the great barrier to quality treatment, would soon be overcome by innovation.

Today, the borderless revolution continues. In this exciting keynote, Heinzl describes how groundbreaking work with big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotech, genomics, and Cloud applications mean that not only is the world smaller and more efficient than ever before, but entrepreneurs can pick and choose from a host of innovations to create unprecedented health care technologies. Heinzl tells stories from the world’s most vulnerable places to reveal the humanitarian impact of cutting-edge science, drawn from his years of work abroad and with leading tech companies. And he explains how many technological advancements can also originate from emerging markets—meaning science and technology can (and will) flow from the places they’re most needed.

Filled with emotional and inspiring stories, coupled with an insatiable curiosity about the furthest possibilities of tech, Heinzl expands upon our ongoing search for better medicine and toasts the changing face of human health.

Lessons from Abroad The Opportunities of a Borderless World
Richard Heinzl crafts a unique message for each group he speaks with. With perspective and humility, he shares lessons from his experiences at the far corners of the world: major moments, like working through a humanitarian crisis during the Iraq War, or witnessing South Africa’s first democratic elections. He also captures the quieter, no less wondrous, moments. Like seeing how a simple Frisbee, given to a group of kids at the frontlines, can bring joy half the world away. Or how, in most places he went, the Internet had beat him there, shrinking the globe. (Still, in other places, the Internet was absent—developing in him a visceral need for something like it to come along.) 

Heinzl takes us past the expected sphere of humanitarian aid stories to reveal a remarkable world with universal lessons and incredible human stories (beginning with the story of how his experiences changed his life). Zooming out, he points to the exponential change in our borderless world. Why, for instance, it is more important than ever for individuals and organizations to have a non-conventional approach to problem solving. We need to embrace this change, he says, and to see what is truly valuable in our world—and how we are all connected in it.