NEW DELHI: Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and secretary to the department of health research, has been appointed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) deputy director general, programmes, in Geneva. This is the second-highest position at the UN agency.
The new WHO leadership team was announced on Tuesday by director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was elected to the post in May. “The team represents 14 countries, including all WHO regions, and is more than 60% women, reflecting my deep held belief that we need top talent, gender equity, and a geographically diverse set of perspectives to fulfil our mission to keep the world safe,” Ghebreyesus said.
Swaminathan, widely recognised for her research on tuberculosis, is a renowned paediatrician and clinical scientist. She will replace Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah of Ghana, who joined the WHO as a senior policy adviser to the director-general and had served as the assistant director-general of the communicable disease programme and the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programme.
Swaminathan is one of the three daughters of Dr M S Swaminathan, known as the father of India’s green revolution. Her mother Mina is an educationist, and as chairperson of the study group on the development of preschool children, had submitted a report that formed the basis of the Integrated Child Development Services.
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Swaminathan brings with her a vast experience spanning over three decades in clinical care and research. She also worked with Unicef from 2009 to 2011 as coordinator of the Unicef/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) in Geneva.
She was also part of several WHO and global advisory bodies and committees, including the WHO expert panel to review global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property, the strategic and technical advisory group of the global TB department at the WHO, and co-chair of the Lancet Commission on TB. She was also the director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai.