Irwin’s Story

With a wide range of hands-on experiences - including running a health center in one of America’s most impoverished rural counties, working for USA for Africa, the international humanitarian initiative that brought together musical legends including Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon, working in the White House assigned to president Bill Clinton’s Task Force on Health Care Reform, building a state-of -the-art children’s hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, running a pediatric intensive care unit, and founding a non-profit organization to help children in poverty - Irwin brings an extensive background of knowledge and expertise to the table.

His experiences as a pediatrician give him first-hand insight on the specific needs and challenges vulnerable populations face. His direct experience addressing major disasters makes him a national leader in preparedness, response and recovery. In addition, he has consulted extensively with local, state and federal officials and agencies in his areas of expertise.

Working with resilient children who dream big - regardless of the adversities they face - has made him a political figure fighting to ensure that every child has a success trajectory that entails access to good health care and high-quality education.

In 1987, in response to the critical unmet medical needs of children in homeless shelters, Irwin founded Children’s Health Fund in New York City along with Karen Redlener and legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon. They launched the first “big blue bus” - a specially designed, self-contained pediatric mobile medical clinic equipped with two examining room, registration and waiting area, nurse's station, and room for medical procedures.

Over the next 30 years, Children’s Health Fund would grow to a fleet of more than 50 mobile clinics serving nearly 300,000 kids and family members each year in poor rural and urban communities across America.

Since 2003, Irwin has also directed the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He is a go-to resource for various media outlets including digital, print, and broadcast news sources providing insights about how institutions can best prepare for times of crises, evaluating our nation’s resiliency and readiness, and promoting best practices on managing recovery after a disaster. Additionally, he holds professorships at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in Health Policy & Management and Pediatrics at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Irwin is the author of two books, “Americans At Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now” (Knopf) and, “The Future of US: What the Dreams of Children Mean for 21st Century America (Columbia University Press).