Women to Watch: Nancy Aossey

To date, our Women to Watch series has highlighted leaders in industry, crucial activists, and transcendent athletes — now we turn our attention to a woman that has been at the forefront of getting medical aid to tens of millions of people around the world: Nancy Aossey.
Since 1986, Aossey has led International Medical Corps (IMC), and seen the nonprofit organization grow from just three employees to a group of thousands that is acknowledged as a world leader in humanitarian assistance and health services.
IMC now has more than 7,500 staff members stationed around across the globe, and provided emergency relief and medical training in more than 80 countries — efforts that have been valued at over $3.9 billion.
Nancy Aossey working in the field for International Medical Corps
Aossey’s leadership and business acumen in establishing IMC as a crucial piece in global humanitarian efforts has also garnered the organization support from notable names like Robert Pattinson, Keira Knightley, and even our very own Hope Dworaczyk Smith.
With new humanitarian crises seemingly arising daily, Aossey’s position as a leader of IMC will be more important than ever.

Nancy Aossey’s Beginnings

Aossey grew up in the midwest city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she experienced a rather simple childhood. Her father worked as a milkman, and her mother as a secretary — but that didn’t stop them from demonstrating to their daughter the power of philanthropy. Specifically, her father gave away free chocolate milk to kids in their community whose families couldn’t afford it.
Aossey’s parents also encouraged her to attend college, which she did, receiving a BA and MBA from the University of Northern Iowa. The University would also later recognize her with an honorary doctorate degree.

Growing International Medical Corps and Providing Sustaining Impact

When Aossey joined IMC in 1986 the organization had only been operating for two years after its founding by Dr. Robert Simon in 1984. Simon had seen the horrors of war, and its effects on civilian bystanders during the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. He recognized the need for medical services and training in the region, and responded by creating IMC.
Simon’s expertise in Emergency Medicine created a foundation for IMC to build from, but to achieve a global reach the organization needed an entrepreneurial vision — one that would be provided by Aossey.

“[Aossey] took over, and IMC took off,” said former First Lady Michelle Obama during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa 2011 commencement.

Shortly after receiving her MBA, Aossey was brought on as CEO, and was tasked with finding ways to grow IMC despite a lack of funding. She would establish and launch programs in Angola, Somalia, and Rwanda, which at the time represented some of the most dangerous but also the most in-need regions of the world.
To date, IMC has delivered over $3.9 billion in relief efforts to over 80 countries, but the organization’s lasting impact on the regions it touches is priceless. During Aossey’s time with IMC, an emphasis has been placed on immediate response and training individuals in the communities they serve.
“International Medical Corps is known as a first responder for [over] 30 years,” said Aossey in an interview with Devex. “But what we are most focused on is training people so they can be their own best first responder.”
The scope of support that IMC provides has also broadened in Aossey’s time with the nonprofit, and now can provide relief and expertise to almost any issue facing regions in all corners of the world. They currently identify the aspects of their work as the following:
  • Emergency Response & Preparedness — The ability to respond anywhere, at all times, with speed.
  • Health Services Support — Organized, efficient, and properly equipped medical professionals that save lives.
  • Family & Community Health — Supporting and strengthening families and communities is critical to building resilience.
  • Women’s & Children’s Health including Gender-based Violence — Women are the building blocks of families and communities, their protection and that of their children is of the utmost importance.
  • Mental Health and Psychosocial Support — Providing support to those who have witnessed first hand the horrors of disaster and conflict.
  • Water, Sanitation & Hygiene — The most basic human need, prioritizing clean water in all regions is crucial to rebuilding.
  • Nutrition, Food Security & Livelihoods — Malnutrition poses a large threat to children, especially under the age of 5, treating and preventing it has massive economic benefits.
To learn more about the IMC, its mission, and core values visit InternationalMedicalCorps.org.

Making Waves Outside IMC

In addition to her work with IMC, Aossey served as chairman of the Board of InterAction, the largest alliance of international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and partners in the United States. In her former position, she aided in the organization’s aim to combat poverty, promote human rights, and work towards a more sustainable planet.
Aossey’s long term leadership of IMC has also established her as an expert on humanitarian issues. From briefing the White House, testifying before Congress, and being featured in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Business Journal, her expertise has been leaned on in multiple ways during times of need.

IMC’s Current Relief Efforts and Hope’s Continued Support

With the coronavirus pandemic still affecting the global community, IMC continues to support at-risk countries and regions with necessary resources to fight and prevent their disease. IMC’s responses to the pandemic include training frontline health professionals, and vaccination campaigns.
IMC has also responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine providing, “medical, mental health and protection services to the millions of people affected by the conflict, including refugees.” While the situation in Ukraine and in its surrounding countries develops, IMC will provide lasting support, learn how you can get involved now.
As global crises continue, so will IMC’s response to them. As the organization extends relief to millions around the world, leaders atop the organization like Aossey become even more important. She will undoubtedly be at the forefront of decision making that aids so many in the coming days, months, and years — and we will be watching this woman.
A woman that understands the impact of leaders like Nancy Aossey, and the importance of organizations like IMC is Hope Smith. Hope’s long-standing relationship with IMC is well documented, and she continues her unwavering support through a position on its Leadership Council. Additionally all proceeds from sales of Hope’s book “Your Body Is Magic” will go to IMC to support its maternal health causes.
To learn more about women who are catching our attention, read our latest profiles on Christy Turlington, and Ava DuVernay.