Tedros announces WHO senior leadership team

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director general for programmes, and Jane Ellison, deputy director general for corporate operations. Photos from Twitter

MANILA — The World Health Organization on Tuesday released the list of senior officials who serve as the leadership team under Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The team represents all WHO regions, and more than 60 percent of them are women, said Tedros. This is “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,” he said.

The announcement confirmed rumors of Dr. Soumya Swaminathan of India becoming deputy director-general. But she won’t be alone; there will be two deputy director-generals under Tedros’ term. Swaminathan will be in charge of programs, while Jane Ellison, from the United Kingdom, will become deputy director-general for corporate operations.

Swaminathan is former secretary of India's Department of Health Research under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. She has been involved in several WHO advisory panels and committees. Ellison meanwhile was special parliamentary adviser to the U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, and served as U.K. public health minister from 2013-2016.

Only one of the previous assistant director-generals will stay in their role: Ren Minghui will continue to serve, moving from leading HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases to communicable diseases.

Peter Salama will also continue as executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

The other new appointees include:

Dr. Bernhard Schwartländer as chef de cabinet. Schwartländer has been WHO’s representative in China since 2013. Prior to that, he held a number of senior positions within WHO, as well as other global health organizations, including UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Dr. Naoko Yamamoto of Japan as assistant director-general for universal health coverage and health systems cluster. Yamamoto was senior assistant minister for global health at Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and has been involved in the bilateral donor’s work in promoting universal health coverage.

Lubna A. Al-Ansary of Saudi Arabia as assistant director-general for metrics and measurement. Al-Ansary is a professor of family medicine and head of clinical practice guidelines committee at King Saud University, the largest and oldest university in the kingdom. She is known for her efforts in promoting evidenced-based health care in the region, and holds the Bahamdan Research Chair at KSU.

Dr. Svetlana Akselrod of Russia as assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health. Akselrod served as coordinator for the WHO Europe’s NCDs prevention and control work. Prior, she was deputy director for the Department of International Cooperation and Public Affairs under the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Health.

Ambassador Michèle Boccoz of France as assistant director general for external relations. Boccoz has been the French government’s ambassador on the fight against HIV and AIDS, and other communicable diseases. Before that, she served in several diplomatic positions, and for seven years was executive director for international affairs at France’s Institut Pasteur, a private nonprofit foundation focused on biomedical research.

Dr. Ranieri Guerra of Italy as assistant director general for special initiatives. Since 2014, Guerra has served as director general for preventive health and chief medical officer of the Italian Ministry of Health. He previously served as director of the WHO Collaborating Center, and was a medical director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Dr. Mariângela Batista Galvão Simão of Brazil as assistant director general for drug access, vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Simão was director of community support, social justice and inclusion at UNAIDS, but for years has worked in different capacities under the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

Dr. Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela of South Africa as assistant director general for family, women, children and adolescents. She served in several senior leadership roles, including as CEO of the South African National AIDS Council, director of technical knowledge and support for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and cluster manager for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections for the South African Department of Health. Her most recent position was as special advisor to the deputy president, including on national strategic plans concerning noncommunicable diseases.

Stewart Simonson of United States as assistant director general for general management. Simonson has served as legal advisor for the Crudem Foundation, as senior vice president and general counsel to the Futures Group Global, LLC, and as assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Joy St. John of Barbados as assistant director general for climate and other determinants of health. A former chief medical officer of Barbados, she has also served as director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.