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Luke Disney turns the tide on public health

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Meet Nova Scotia expat, entrepreneur and ConnectNS network member Luke Disney.


Currently based out of Utrecht in The Netherlands, Luke is the Founding Executive Director of North Star Alliance, an award-winning international non-profit organization running a network of 37 primary health clinics in 12 Sub-Saharan African countries. The company is turning the tide on public health with a mission to bring quality and sustainable health services to hard-to-reach populations. North Star Alliance was founded in 2006, employs 180 people and has provided over one million treatments in the ten years it has been operating.

While Luke may be living and working across the pond, he keeps close ties with his Nova Scotia home where he sees enormous potential for innovation.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Nova Scotia”?

My family and friends. We get back as often we can to visit. Facebook and email have made it much easier to keep in touch, so it’s easy to pick up with everyone where we last left off.

What’s the greatest asset Nova Scotia can offer your industry or profession?

At North Star we innovate new ways of delivering healthcare services to remote and hard-to-reach populations. When I look at Nova Scotia I see a similar need to re-think how we react to changing health patterns and the logistical challenges of reaching people outside urban centres. There is enormous potential for innovation in this area due to new technology and our growing understanding of effective methods of prevention. Nova Scotia has top-notch educational institutions, which can serve as innovation centres to explore and take advantage of these advances. At the same time, our tight-knit communities are fertile ground for rolling out decentralized approaches to prevention and care. With the start-up movement gaining momentum in the province there’s never been a better time for Nova Scotians to be pioneering new approaches to healthcare.

What do you miss most about Nova Scotia?

The people and the landscape. I miss the easy-going attitude and self-deprecating sense of humour. There’s nothing like being able to have a laugh with someone you just met. I also miss simple things, like walking on the beach in winter or going for an early morning walk in Point Pleasant Park. When you fly into Halifax at first you see nothing but water, and then nothing but trees (and a few rocks!). As soon as you walk outside the terminal you can smell the ocean and the trees, and you know you’re home.

Would you ever consider moving home, and if so, what would you like to do?

Absolutely. Last summer when I was back visiting I read the Ivany Report. It really shocked me. I’ve had the good fortune to see a lot of the world for my work. My travels have made me appreciate what we have in Nova Scotia enormously. I can see so much potential for the province. I hope to find an opportunity to take what I’ve learned these last years and to help address some of the challenges outlined in the report.

How can people get in touch with you?

People can ping me on LinkedIn or contact me via our website.

Luke Disney is a member of the ConnectNS network of proud Nova Scotians, alumni, and expats from over 40 countries. Learn how you too can get involved.