Commencement Speaker Story

KGI Announces NORD Chief Executive Officer Peter Saltonstall as Commencement Speaker

Peter Saltonstall, president and chief executive officer at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), will be the keynote speaker at Keck Graduate Institute’s 18th annual commencement ceremony on May 18, 2019. 

NORD, now in its 36th year, appointed Saltonstall as CEO in 2008 after he served for more than 30 years as a senior executive in both for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare environments.

“I am thrilled that Peter has accepted the invitation to attend the 2019 commencement and serve as the keynote speaker,” said KGI President Sheldon Schuster. “Peter is one of the country’s lead voices on rare disease issues and his leadership inspires our students and alumni.”

Under Saltonstall’s leadership, NORD has maintained the integrity of the Orphan Drug Act while forging new relationships between the patient community and the Executive branch, Congress, HHS, FDA, NIH, Social Security Administration and CMS; as well as with drug and device companies, and with the medical, academic, and investment communities. His efforts to build collaboration stems from his view that advances for the rare disease patient can be achieved best through joint efforts. Today he continues to be one of the country’s lead voices on rare disease issues to Industry, FDA, Congress, and the Government.

Saltonstall is also committed to globalization of the rare disease patient community, as diseases do not recognize geographical boundaries and research can be expedited when patients from many countries are involved. He has helped establish collaborative programs with patient communities throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, Asia, and South America.

Under Saltonstall’s leadership, NORD has grown to be the global reference site for the rare disease community with NORD’s website now receiving more than one million requests a month for information. He has also overseen the expansion of NORD’s US-based patient assistance programs, which work with manufacturers and patients to help provide medication assistance to patients in need of medications they can not afford. He also played a major role in the building of the NORD Longitudinal Natural History System that is recognized by the FDA as one of the tools of choice for patient organizations collecting data on their disease.

Before joining NORD, Saltonstall held senior positions with several major academic medical centers and organizations, including Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Tufts-New England Medical Center and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center of Boston. He helped launch Harvard Risk Management Foundation’s startup venture, Risk Management Strategies, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s private equity arm, Strategic Business Initiatives.

In addition, Saltonstall was the co-founder and CEO of SafeCare Systems, LLC, which developed one of the country’s first patient safety management systems. He also played an active role on Capitol Hill in the development of the Patient Safety Act of 2005, which dramatically improved the reporting of events that adversely affect patients.

Saltonstall currently serves on the NIH’s NeuroNEXT External Oversight Board, the CTSA Consortium Coordinating Center External Advisory Board, IRDiRC (International Rare Diseases Research Consortium) Executive Committee and is a founding and current board member of the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC). He also serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for MIT’s NEW Drug Development ParadIGmS (NEWDIGS) program.

KGI’s 2019 Commencement will take place Saturday, May 18, at the Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center in Pomona, CA. For more information about the commencement events, visit