Pernessa C. Seele
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Seele is Founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Inc., a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) whose mission is to prevent diseases and to improve the health status of people of the African Diaspora by providing support to faith institutions in areas of program design, implementation and evaluation. These efforts strengthen the capacity of the faith community to deliver programs and services that contribute to the elimination of health disparities. The Balm In Gilead has been entrusted to build the capacity of national faith structures to utilize their existing tentacles that reach into every urban center and rural village to deliver comprehensive health services.
Born in Lincolnville, South Carolina, Dr. Seele was raised on the ideals of each-one, teach-one and the spirit of unity. In 1989, she began working at Harlem Hospital. The number of people suffering from AIDS–often alone–led her to ask the question: “Where is the faith community?"
The Balm In Gilead, Inc. was born out of Dr. Seele’s vision that faith communities had a major role to play in addressing HIV/AIDS nationally as well as globally. Dr. Seele’s desire to involve the faith community began with The Harlem Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS in 1989. Dr. Seele went from door to door throughout the community until she had brought together over 50 faith leaders to join her in prayer and education.
Now in its 23nd year, The Balm In Gilead, Inc. based in Richmond, VA (USA) and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has provided capacity development and technical support to over 30,000 faith institutions regarding the implementation of health education and service programs.
Dr. Seele is one of the nation’s most prominent voices on issues of HIV/AIDS and other health disparities and their affect on African people throughout the world, including African Americans. Under her leadership, The Balm In Gilead has supported the establishment of over 12 national health offices within the national headquarters of various faith-based institutions throughout Africa and the United States. Furthermore, The Balm In Gilead has engaged nearly 10 million churchgoers throughout the United States in health awareness campaigns through the effective mobilization of the African American church to address public health issues.
In 2010, Dr. Seele founded EveryChild USA, designed to reach every American in an effort to raise awareness and resources to ensure that every child in the USA learns to read, has access to comprehensive health care and access and exposure to opportunities that positively impact their future. EveryChild USA is dedicated to raising awareness and resources to support organizations and institutions that serve America’s children in areas of poverty, health, education and opportunity.
Dr. Seele is the recipient of numerous citations and honors for her success in mobilizing faith communities to address HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer and other health disparties. In January 2006, Dr. Seele was an invited guest of former President and First Lady Laura Bush for the State of the Union Address as a symbol of the President’s commitment to work with African American churches in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In May 2006, Dr. Seele was featured on the cover of TIME magazine as one of the Most Influential Persons In The World. She was also invited to participate in the Fortune TIME CNN Global Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, along with President William “Bill” Clinton and a host of international leaders and Fortune 100 chief executive officers.
Ebony Magazine selected Dr. Seele as one of their Power 150 for her work in uniting the faith community across denominations. Essence Magazine has honored her with numerous features. In May 2005, the 35th Anniversary issue, she was named one of the 35 Most Beautiful And Remarkable Women In The World; February 2004, featured as One of the New Activists in the tradition of African Americans’ greatest heroes; October 2003, one of 50 Women Who Are Shaping the World along with media mogul Oprah Winfrey and 48 other African American women doing vital work that benefits the lives of many. In 2000, she received the Congressional Black Caucus Award and in 2001, The Black AIDS Institute selected her as a Hero in the Struggle. In May 2010, Dr. Seele was selected as 21 Leaders of the 21st Century of Women E-News in New York City.
In April 2008, Clark Atlanta University honored Dr. Seele with the Pathway of Excellence Award, citing her as one of its most outstanding graduates of all time. American Legacy Magazine presented The Health Leadership Award to Dr. Seele in 2002.
Over the past 22 years, she has spearheaded an international movement to address public-health issues through the capacity development of communities of faith to deliver prevention intervention and life-saving health services.
Dr. Seele has worked with three US presidential administrations on issues of HIV/AIDS in the United States and abroad. She is known for her extraordinary vision and ability to create national and global partnerships among leaders of various cultures and religious doctrines in areas of health promotion and disease prevention.
Dr. Seele received a Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Science from Clark Atlanta University in 1976 & 1979 respectively, and a Doctorate of Human Letters from the College of New Rochelle, NY in 2007.
Jet - 2007
Religious Leaders Believe The Black Church Can Do More To Fight AIDS
Time - 2006
100 Most Influential People - Heroes & Pioneers