Introducing MSF USA Board President Dr. Rasha Khoury

A conversation on what it means to be a doctor without borders.

Dr. Rasha Khoury, president of MSF USA board of directors

Dr. Rasha Khoury, an ob-gyn based in Boston who has completed six surgical assignments with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), was elected president by the MSF USA board of directors following our annual General Assembly on May 18. She will serve as president through the end of her term in May 2025. She has been an active board member since 2019, with a focus on exercising participatory leadership and amplifying the voices of patients and staff across the global MSF movement.  

Dr. Khoury completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. She pursued subspecialty training in complex family planning and global women's health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she also received her master's in public health. She currently works at Boston Medical Center, a hospital caring for patients from disinvested communities—including many people who have been forcibly displaced from countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Here, she talks about what it means to be a doctor without borders.

Why did you first get involved with Doctors Without Borders?

I went to medical school in order to work for organizations like Doctors Without Borders. I was born and raised in East Jerusalem, in the occupied Palestinian territories, and learned about the organization as a child. I remember being awestruck by the MSF cars and their “no weapons” logo in a place where weapons are everywhere, and violence is a fact of life.  

When I joined Doctors Without Borders in 2014, I was looking for a way to put all my skills to meaningful use. I wanted to practice humanitarianism and stand in solidarity with women and societies that have been affected by war, poverty, climate destruction, and epidemics. Many of these communities are simultaneously neglected and feared, much like my own society. I was looking for ways to be a citizen of the world.

Dr. Rasha Khoury and colleagues.
Dr. Rasha Khoury with with the operating theater team in Mosul, Iraq.

Left: Dr. Khoury (center) on assignment in Khost, Afghanistan, with colleagues from Mexico and Italy. Right: Dr. Khoury with the operating theater team in Mosul, Iraq.

Which assignments have been the most meaningful for you, and why?  

Every assignment has been deeply meaningful. If I have to choose, the most transformational ones have been my assignments in Afghanistan, and specifically in Khost, where I spent more than a year. Khost, in southeastern Afghanistan, is home to Doctors Without Borders’ largest maternity hospital. This is where I learned everything about working with communities rather than for them. With a staff of more than 400 people—mostly Afghans—caring for around 2,000 women and newborns a month, a 24-hour operating room, a blood bank, and a neonatal intensive care unit, this project saved more lives than I have ever witnessed or had the honor to be part of. To provide high-quality and dignified care at that scale is the best of Doctors Without Borders’ work.   

How is your medical work in the United States connected to your international humanitarian work?

I work at a safety net hospital in Boston as a subspecialist in maternal fetal medicine and complex family planning. This hospital is the main site of care for communities living in poverty, living with substance use disorders, and living with mental illness. We see many people who have been violently displaced from their home countries and are seeking refuge in the US. We care for survivors of the prison industrial complex and survivors of torture. I work with medical interpreters, social workers, community health workers, patient advocates, birth sisters, nurses, and midwives to center the whole person within their whole community. The struggles I witness and accompany every day are intersectional and transnational.  

Dr Rasha Khoury conducts a Caesarean section in Khost maternity hospital. Medecins Sans Frontieres is focusing on managing complicated deliveries
Dr. Rasha Khoury conducts a Cesarean section at Khost Maternity Hospital, where Doctors Without Borders manages complicated deliveries. Afghanistan 2017 © Pau Miranda/MSF

How do you balance the competing demands of being a mother, a physician, and an activist?

My identities feed off each other. Parenting is the most humbling of all. My children have taught me an emotional range and vulnerability I never imagined. My immediate colleagues are deeply engaged in the care work of children, differently abled family members, and elderly parents. They form a cocoon of solidarity around me in a society that does not support people in caregiving roles enough. Loving what I do every day is propulsive. I feel grateful that I can accompany people in dignity and speak out with them against the structural determinants of their suffering.

What is one of your top priorities as president of MSF USA?

MSF USA plays a critical role within the international movement to recruit and train aid workers for our medical projects, draw public attention to humanitarian emergencies, advocate for our patients to get the care they deserve, and raise the funds that fuel our programmatic work. I’m excited about supporting the breadth of this work. As the office that contributes the largest share of funds to the movement’s global pool of resources, MSF USA has a particular responsibility to ensure that this money is well spent. I want to ensure that the organization’s international funding mechanisms represent MSF USA's priorities centering equity and accountability.