Sema Sgaier
Co-Founder and Executive Director

Dr. Sema Sgaier leads Surgo Foundation’s strategy, operations, and partner relations. Sema is passionate about solving complex development problems, drawing on her explorations in the sciences and her extensive experience in policy, strategy, and management of development programs. She believes in the power of integrating non-traditional approaches to drive transformations in discovery and deliver major development agendas. Sema has led several large-scale programs, as well as research and evaluation projects, and has worked with governments in India and Africa on public-health policy and large-scale delivery.

Prior to joining Surgo Foundation, Sema held several roles at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). She led a portfolio on voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention across eastern and southern Africa. As part of BMGF’s India Country Office, Sema led the scale-up of the foundation’s HIV prevention program (Avahan) in several states, managed its transition to the government of India, and developed data platforms for decision-making.  

Before joining BMGF, Sema was a neuroscience and genomics scholar at Harvard Medical School and a fellow with the Centre for Global Health Research. Sema is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an Affiliate Assistant Professor, Global Health at the University of Washington. She also serves on the board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Alumni Network. Sema was selected as a Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society.  

Sema received her PhD in cellular and molecular biology (developmental genetics) from New York University, her MA in neuroscience from Brown University and a BSc in molecular biology and genetics from Boğaziçi University (Istanbul).