Soumya Swaminathan Appointed WHO’s Deputy Director General

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, who trained as a pediatrician, is a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV.


Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the head of Indian Council of Medical Research, is now the new Deputy Director General at the World Health Organization in Geneva. The WHO announced the appointment on their social media pages on Oct. 3. “Our Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the new WHO Senior Leadership Team. They come from 14 different countries, from all WHO regions, and more than 60% of the new appointees are women,” the statement said.

Swaminathan, who trained as a pediatrician and is a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, will be the second in command in the hierarchy of the health organization.

The WHO, who assigned her the post of the Deputy Director General for Programmes, added on their website: “She brings with her 30 years of experience in clinical care and research and has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programs.

“Most recently, Dr Swaminathan was Secretary of the Department of Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. 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.”

Swaminathan has sat on several WHO and global advisory bodies and committees, such as the WHO Expert Panel, 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. She also co-chaired the Lancet Commission on tuberculosis. She has also been a director of the National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis in Chennai. The research firm aimed at bringing together all major national and international stakeholders to develop new tools to combat tuberculosis, including drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

She achieved her academic training in India, the United Kingdom and the United States. Her work has been published in more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

The WHO also appointed United Kingdom’s Jane Ellison as Deputy Director General for Corporate Operations, and 10 new assistant director generals.

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