Key leadership appointments made to drive WHO strategic direction and initiatives

Key leadership appointments made to drive WHO strategic direction and initiatives

The World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed five new senior figures to its headquarters leadership team in Geneva.

The new appointments follow the reappointment of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to his second five-year term as Director-General. The overall leadership team has been consolidated to align with the Organization’s priorities for the next five years and will work closely with the Director-General to drive forward these priorities and WHO’s ambitious transformation agenda.

To accelerate progress on implementation of WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13), and achievement of its “triple billion” targets and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, WHO’s work for the coming five years is focused on five priorities: making a paradigm shift towards promoting health and preventing disease by addressing its root causes; radically reorienting health systems towards primary health care; strengthening the systems for health emergency preparedness and response; harnessing the power of science, innovation, data and  technologies to advance health; and strengthening WHO as the leading authority on global health and to achieve impact in countries. 

The headquarters leadership team, comprising equal numbers of women and men, will work jointly with WHO regional and country offices.  

New members of the headquarters leadership team:

  • Dr Jeremy Farrar will become WHO’s Chief Scientist as of 8 May 2023. The appointment of Dr Farrar was previously announced in December 2022. In this role Dr Farrar will oversee the Science Division, bringing together the best experts and networks in science and innovation from around the world to guide, develop and deliver high quality health policies and services to the people who need them most. Prior to joining WHO Dr Farrar was Director of the Wellcome Trust. Before joining Wellcome in 2013 Dr Farrar spent 17 years as Director of the Clinical Research Unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Viet Nam where his research interests were in global health with a focus on emerging infectious diseases. Dr Farrar is a clinician researcher with a medical degree and a PhD.
  • Dr Ailan Li will become Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage, Healthier Populations as of 8 May 2023. In this role Dr Li will oversee the Organization’s efforts to promote better health and well-being through interventions relating to the environmental, social, and economic determinants of health, including climate change, tobacco control, chemical safety, road safety, food systems and nutrition, physical activity, air pollution and radiation, through a One Health approach. Dr Li has been serving as the WHO Representative to the Kingdom of Cambodia since 15 July 2019. Prior to this role, Dr Li served as Regional Emergency Director for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme in the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific. Dr Li holds a medical degree and degree in health social sciences.
  • Dr Yukiko Nakatani will become Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products as of 2 May 2023. In this role Dr Nakatani will oversee the development and implementation of WHO’s norms and policies to ensure equitable access to quality medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for all populations everywhere, including for preventing and responding to epidemics. Dr Nakatani has been serving as the Director of the Cancer and Disease Control Division of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and as the Technical Advisor to the Minister of State for the COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force in Japan. Dr Nakatani holds a medical degree and a PhD in public health.
  • Dr Razia Pendse will become the Chef de Cabinet as of 4 May 2023. In this role Dr Pendse will head the Director-General’s Office, helping to drive the Organization’s priorities and initiatives, and will ensure alignment within the WHO leadership team and across the three levels of WHO. Dr Pendse has been serving as the Director of Healthier Populations and Noncommunicable Diseases in the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia and was previously the WHO Representative to Sri Lanka. Dr Pendse holds a medical degree and master’s degree in public health.
  • Dr Jérôme Salomon will become Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases as of 17 April 2023. In this role Dr Salomon will oversee a broad portfolio of technical programmes covering HIV, viral hepatitis, sexually-transmitted infections, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, mental health, substance use disorders, and noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Dr Salomon has been serving as the Director-General for Health at the Ministry of Health and Prevention of France. He was a Member of the WHO Executive Board prior to his appointment and has extensive experience in health systems management, communicable diseases and international public health. Dr Salomon holds a medical degree, a master’s degree in public health and a PhD in epidemiology.

The portfolios of existing members of the headquarters leadership team:

  • Dr Samira Asma will continue as the Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact. Dr Asma oversees a portfolio which ensures that health data are reliable and accessible, and are used to improve health outcomes worldwide, including tracking and accelerating progress towards the triple billion targets and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to joining WHO in 2018, Dr Asma held leadership positions at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for over two decades. She holds a doctorate degree in dental surgery and a master’s degree in public health.
  • Dr Bruce Aylward has been appointed Assistant Director-General of the Universal Health Coverage, Life Course Division as of 4 May 2023. Dr Aylward has been leading WHO’s Transformation Agenda and the Organization’s work on the multi-agency Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Hub. In his new role, Dr Aylward will drive the Organization’s agenda to transform primary health care as central to universal health coverage, as well as overseeing WHO’s work on health systems, immunization and reproductive, maternal and child health. Dr Aylward holds a medical degree and a master’s degree in public health.
  • Dr Hanan Balkhy will continue as Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance. Dr Balkhy provides technical and political leadership to curb the health and economic burdens of drug resistance, including through multi-sectoral collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the United Nations Environment Programme. Prior to joining WHO, Dr Balkhy was Executive Director for Infection Prevention and Control at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of National Guard. Dr Balkhy holds a medical degree with specialization in paediatric infectious diseases.
  • Dr Catharina Boehme will become Assistant Director-General, External Relations and Governance as of 4 May 2023. In this role Dr Boehme will lead WHO’s strategic engagement in the areas of governance, resource mobilization and partner relations. Her portfolio will include critical Member States processes, such as their negotiation of a pandemic accord, the reform of WHO’s governance and the implementation of recommendations on sustainable financing. Dr Boehme has been serving as the Director-General’s Chef de Cabinet during which time she drove the leadership’s strategic vision, ensuring alignment across the Organization and with Member States and partners. She joined WHO in 2021, having been the Chief Executive Officer of FIND, the international alliance for diagnostics. Dr Boehme holds a medical degree and diplomas in public health and management.
  • Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu will continue as Assistant Director-General for the Division of Health Emergency Intelligence and Surveillance Systems in the Emergencies Programme. As part of his portfolio, Dr Ihekweazu leads the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, bringing together partners to address future pandemic and epidemic risks with better access to data, analytical capacities, and tools for decision-making. Prior to joining WHO, Dr Ihekweazu was the first Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), from 2016 to 2021. Dr Ihekweazu holds a medical degree, with specialization as an infectious disease epidemiologist, and a master’s degree in public health.
  • Dr Michael Ryan will continue as Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. Dr Ryan has been managing health emergencies in WHO for the past 25 years and most recently led WHO’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He leads WHO’s response to disease outbreaks, humanitarian crises and other public health emergencies. Dr Ryan is a founding member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which has aided the response to hundreds of disease outbreaks around the world.  Dr Ryan holds a degree in medicine and a master’s degree in public health.
  • Mr Raul Thomas will continue as Assistant Director-General for Business Operations. Mr Thomas has overall responsibility for WHO’s business functions, including budget, finance, human resources, administration, audit, risk management, accountability and compliance, and general management. He is responsible for implementing many of the initiatives under the Organization’s transformation agenda and creating a respectful, inclusive workplace. During his 20 years of employment with WHO, Mr Thomas has served in the regions of Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific, as well as with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Mr Thomas holds a master’s degree in organizational management and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.


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