Harvard Centennial Speech

Dr. Leandro Grimaldi (Leo) has a story of motivation, perseverance, and "beating the odds" that we wanted to distribute throughout the entire Harvard community. Leo was born and raised in an inner city neighborhood in a small town in Argentina - he had to fight the odds of resource scarcity and work in the streets from a young age to be able to help his parents, his entire family, and to defy the preconceived concepts that boys like him would never had a chance to pursue superior education. Nostalgic of these days from his youth, Leo mentioned these words in the Harvard Commencement Speech for his program's concentration:


"My name is Leandro but I go by Leo. Today I am graduating from Harvard, and so are you! Despite the fact that this is an incredible achievement, not all has been a bed of roses in my life. I was born and raised in a rough neighborhood in South America. In that place there was no hope; people did not believe in a way out. When I was young I had to work on the streets to help support my family. Believe me when I tell you that I did a lot of things… I sold cigarette cartons, flowers, newspapers, anything. I spent countless days and nights on the street. I grew up surrounded by violence, gangs, drugs, and crime. Terrible things happened there; I even saw one my best friends bleeding to death in front of my very own eyes. The place seemed to be forgotten by God. But there was one hope: my family. We had the dream of a better future and somehow I managed to have a happy childhood. Today, I can proudly say that the street was my first school.

In elementary school I was placed on an excelled path of study, and as a result of it, I was able to enter high school –and graduate- younger than my other peers. I can certainly say that many events have marked my life forever; undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable ones was when I was 12 years old and my grandma passed away. That event made me reflect a lot about what I was doing with my life –at that time I was involved with a dangerous group of individuals that, later on, became one of the main gangs in town. People usually ask me: -“Leo, how come you didn’t do all the bad things that your friends were doing?” My response to them is: -“Because I was able to have the dream of a better future for myself and my family”. I realized very early in life that I wanted to be different, I wanted to do something else with my life. For some reason I had the capacity of convincing people to do good things, and also to visualize a goal and strategically think and plan how to get to it. I never understood –and still don’t understand- why people struggle so much to get where they dream to be, if they all have the potential to achieve anything they set their minds to.

My parents always wanted me to study since neither of them had the chance to access college-level education. By doing that, I realized I might have the chance of a better future, and maybe to avoid all the struggles that they had to go through.


Today, I feel like I’m living my dreams, but I never forget where I come from. My ultimate goal is to become a global reference in healthcare and lead deep-level health care interventions that will, hopefully, benefit millions. I have the feeling that I will make it happen, but this is not the reason why I’m sharing my story with you.

All of us have the power to encourage many others with our life stories, and this is the message I want to leave you with. Every single one of your backgrounds and stories are unique and amazing, and I truly mean that. Not only because we are privileged to be at Harvard, but because every single event that happened on our paths to get here have made us who we are now. For this reason, do not be afraid of telling your story to others. Share your life and be proud of who you are, where you come from, and what your dream in life is. Every one of us can transmit a powerful message through the stories of our lives. Motivate people; show them all the potential they have, make them realize that if they can dream it, they can make it happen! As my father taught me when I was a kid: “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph”.

Your story might change a life; your story could save a life. Embrace it, cherish it, and always remember that dreams are the engine of our entire beings, and that the things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy."

Leo is nowadays a nationally and internationally renowned physician working as a consultant for top biotech and pharma companies, start-ups, and Venture Capital firms. He has received degrees in Medicine, Health Promotion, and Epidemiology; as well as Orthopedic Surgery, Clinical & Populations Research, and Public Health -focusing on Health Policy and Leadership- at Harvard University. His main interest resides in the intersection of business and strategy, drug development, research, and innovation.

When he graduated from Harvard, Leo gave talks around the world on health policy and advocacy, health care reforms, negotiation and conflict resolution, quality improvement, management and leadership. Leo is also a consultant for health policy issues in Governmental and non-Governmental agencies in the US, Latin America, Asia and Africa (such as the US Federal Government, the Mexican Health Ministry, the Argentinean Health Ministry, the Ghanaian Health Association, the UN -WHO, PAHO-, and many others); integrates the counseling board of Fundación SÍ -an NGO he launched in Argentina-; and is a columnist of health policy and public health issues for several high impact journals and newspapers.

Recipient of numerous awards in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the US for his work as a public health professional and leader, health advocate for vulnerable populations, the pursuit of equity in the public policy world, and for being a source of inspiration for those brought up in resource constrained environments like him.

Passionate about teaching how to change organizations; how to carry out effective leadership, team building and management; and crisis management, conflict resolution, and negotiation, Leo has given talks and presentations in over 50 different institutions - ranging from educational institutions to Governmental agencies, and from NGOs to small and large full-for-profit companies.

A serial innovator and entrepreneur, this brilliant young Harvard graduate is eager to engage with like-minded individuals in new opportunities to partner, invest, generate entrepreneurial projects, and collaborative work to improve the health and impact the lives of millions around the world.