India’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan joins WHO as its second-in-command

The Secretary, DHR and DG of the ICMR, Dr Soumya Swaminathan has got a fresh assignment and this time it is the world's top health policy body, the World Health Organization


New Delhi: The Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Soumya Swaminathan has been appointed Deputy Director General for Programmes (DDP) of the World Health Organization (WHO).

A paediatrician from India and a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, she has over 30 years of experience in clinical care and research. She has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programmes.

The news set the Twitter abuzz with a sea of congratulatory messages flowing to the DG-ICMR. After the prominent personalities within various verticals of bioscience sector expressed their happiness over the development, Dr Swaminathan tweeted modestly with the comments, “Looking forward to serving with a multifaceted and talented team!”

Dr Swaminathan has been serving as the Secretary of the Department of Health Research and DG of the ICMR. From 2009 to 2011, she also served as Coordinator of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) in Geneva. She has sat on 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 WHO, and as Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on TB.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan has received her academic training in India, the United Kingdom and the United States and has published more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

Earlier the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom while announcing the new team made these remarks: “The new WHO senior leadership team reflects my deep-held beliefs: we need top talent, gender equity and geographical diversity to deliver.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom also remarked that the WHO should not be shy about engaging with world leaders and must provide political leadership for health on the global stage. He added that the focus should be on outcomes and impact; setting priorities; become more operational; and put countries at the centre of WHO’s work.