2021 – René Bennett ‘05


René Bennett is a civil rights attorney by training with over a decade of experience in public health, HIV and infectious disease policy and programs. As director of government affairs at Gilead Sciences, she prioritizes improving patient outcomes, increasing access to care and enhancing public health. Her ability to communicate with key stakeholders, government agencies and community leaders ensures the implementation of critical programs in all health care systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she acted as a key liaison between government agencies, including Governor Newsom’s COVID Testing Task Force, and health care systems, providing a lifeline between diverse parties trying to address the pandemic in real time and under stress.

Her commitment to public health took root after witnessing how social, political and economic factors converged with the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. The global stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV mobilized her to ensure that all persons are treated justly and equitably regardless of health care status, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity or gender. René’s work over the years — first as an attorney and now in her current role — demonstrates her commitment to ensuring compassionate and culturally competent care to marginalized communities and individuals.

Providing resources for underrepresented groups continues through her role as president of Women@Gilead Employee Resource Group, Southern California Chapter. In this role, she works to promote gender equality, empower women leadership, connect diverse individuals and develop business acumen for women and their male allies.

She is currently pursuing a Certificate of Management Excellence from Harvard Business School. She received her law degree from Tulane University Law School and graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Political Science. Her academic achievements earned her the Cheverton Award, Chapman’s oldest and highest undergraduate student honor. René’s time at Chapman encouraged her to follow her passions with bold determination, authenticity and courage.