Director-General's Office

WHO Headquarters Leadership Team

Deputy Directors-General

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General for Programmes

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan has been appointed Deputy Director-General for Programmes (DDP). A paediatrician from India and a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, she brings with her 30 years of experience in clinical care and research and has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programmes. 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. 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. She received her academic training in India, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America, and has published more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

Jane Ellison, Deputy Director-General for Corporate Operations

Jane Ellison has been appointed Deputy Director-General for Corporate Operations. From the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, she has more than 30 years of experience in politics, commerce and change management in both the public and private sectors. Currently, she is Special Parliamentary Adviser to the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. In addition, as a member of the parliament of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2017, she served as the country’s Public Health Minister from 2013 to 2016 and as Minister of State at Her Majesty’s Treasury from 2016 to 2017. As Public Health Minister, she led the UK’s response to the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak and represented the government of the United Kingdom in World Health Assemblies. She also had Ministerial responsibility for delivering the DH2010 organizational transformation plan. During her time in Parliament she played a pivotal role in advancing health issues including founding the first All-Party Parliamentary Group on Female Genital Mutilation in 2011. Prior to her work in government, she worked in the private sector, where she was involved in several change management programmes. Ms Ellison has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University.

Executive Directors

Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director of Health Emergencies Programme

Peter Salama

Dr Peter Salama, a medical epidemiologist from Australia, has served as Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme since 2016. Before joining WHO, Dr Salama was UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to these recent assignments, Dr Salama led UNICEF’s global response to Ebola, served as UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe (2009–2015), UNICEF’s Chief of Global Health and Principal Advisor on HIV/AIDS in New York (2004–2009), and UNICEF’s Chief of Health and Nutrition in Afghanistan (2002–2004). Prior to joining UNICEF in 2002, Dr Salama was visiting scientist at the International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and a visiting professor in nutrition at Tufts University. He has also worked with Médecins Sans Frontières and Concern Worldwide in several countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Salama has led research and published extensively on maternal and newborn child health, vaccine-preventable diseases, HIV, nutrition, war-related mortality and violence, refugee and emergency health, and programming in fragile states. He completed his medical and public health degrees at Melbourne and Harvard Universities, where he was also a Fulbright and Harkness fellow in public policy.

Assistant Directors-General

Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, Chef de Cabinet

Dr Bernhard Schwartländer of Germany has been appointed Chef de Cabinet. Since 2013, Dr Schwartländer has served as WHO’s representative in the People’s Republic of China. Before joining WHO in China, he served as Director for Evidence, Policy and Innovation at UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva and as the United Nations Country Coordinator on AIDS in Beijing, China. He has also held a number of senior international positions including the Director for Performance Evaluation and Policy at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Director of the WHO’s HIV Department, and Director of Evaluation and Strategic Information at UNAIDS. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr Schwartländer was the Director of the national AIDS programme in Germany and the Director of the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Robert Koch-Institut in Berlin, the central biomedical and infectious disease research and reference laboratory of the Federal Ministry of Health, Germany. Dr Schwartländer has published widely in scientific journals and books and taught applied epidemiology in Berlin. He is a medical doctor and holds a doctorate in medical epidemiology. He received his education and professional training in Germany and the United States at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems Cluster

Dr Naoko Yamamoto has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems. Dr Yamamoto brings nearly 30 years of experience working on health in Japan and most recently served as Senior Assistant Minister for Global Heath in Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. In this capacity, she was heavily involved in Japan’s global health leadership, including hosting and organizing the International Conference on Universal Health Coverage in 2015 and supporting the compilation of the G7 Ise-Shima Vision for Global Health and Kobe Communique of the G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting in 2016, both of which highlighted the importance of promoting universal health coverage. Prior to this role, she served in numerous health-related positions within the government of Japan, including as Director General of the Hokkaido Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare, Director of the Health and Medical Division at the Ministry of Defense, and Counsellor to the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations. She holds a medical degree, a PhD in epidemiology and a Masters in Public Health.

Professor Lubna A Al-Ansary, Assistant Director-General for Metrics and Measurement

Professor Lubna A Al-Ansary, from Saudi Arabia, has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Metrics and Measurement. Well-known for her extensive experience promoting and supporting evidence-based health care in Gulf countries, Professor Al-Ansary is a Professor of Family Medicine at the College of Medicine and head of the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee at King Saud University. She currently holds the Bahamdan Research Chair for evidence-based health care and knowledge translation at King Saud University, which focuses on evidence-generation and implementation. In 8 years, the Bahamdan Chair has published more than 40 papers. Along with her team, she has also provided in-depth training on local adaptation of clinical practice guidelines for different organizations in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Kuwait, and collaborated with the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region toward establishing a regional initiative on clinical practice guidelines. In 2013, Professor Al-Ansary became a member of the Consultative Council, which is the ‘Appointed Parliament’ in Saudi Arabia, a recognition of her work in healthcare in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, as well as on human rights. She was one of the first female members of parliament, and she represented women at the Inter-parliamentary Union for 2 years.

Dr Svetlana Akselrod, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health

Dr Svetlana Akselrod from the Russian Federation has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. She brings more than 15 years of experience in public health coordination and global health diplomacy. Prior to this role, Dr Akselrod was Coordinator at the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, where she oversaw WHO’s regional work to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases in eastern Europe and central Asian countries. In addition, she served as Deputy Director of the Department of International Cooperation and Public Affairs within the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation between 2012 and 2016. In this capacity, she coordinated the government of the Russian Federation's global health engagement in key forums including the G8, G20 and BRICS summits, and the development of health programmes including those focused on noncommunicable in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Northern European countries. She has served on several global health committees and advisory groups both as a chair and member. In addition, she has represented the Government of the Russian Federation in the WHO Executive Board and for the World Health Assembly. She is trained as a paediatrician and holds a doctorate degree in public health as well as a diploma in international law.

Ambassador Michèle Boccoz, Assistant Director-General for External Relations

Michèle Boccoz has been appointed Assistant Director-General for External Relations. An experienced diplomat from France, she has served as the French Government’s Ambassador for the fight against HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases since 2016. She has also served in the French government as First Secretary to the Permanent Representation of France to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Eruope, First Secretary to the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Belgium and, later, Croatia. From 2001 to 2007, she also served as Executive Director for International Affairs at the Institute Pasteur. Her involvement in health diplomacy dates back to her term of office in Geneva, during which she participated in Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland’s transition into the WHO Director-General role. She also was instrumental supporting the International Health Regulations and emergency preparedness and response efforts. Furthermore, during the French presidency of the European Union, she coordinated the European Union’s positions for the negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Ms Boccoz was trained in diplomacy and is an alumnus of France’s Ecole normale supérieure and École nationale d’administration (National School of Public Administration).

Dr Ranieri Guerra, Assistant Director-General for Special Initiatives

Dr Ranieri Guerra has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Special Initiatives. A physician from Italy, he has more than 30 years of public health experience. Since 2014, he has served as Director General for Preventive Health and Chief Medical Officer of the Italian Ministry of Health. Additional roles include serving as Scientific Attaché for the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre and Director of the Office of External Relations at the President’s Cabinet at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, the national research organization of the Italian Ministry of Health, and Medical Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). He has published extensively on humanitarian and emergency operations and health reform in developing and transitional countries. He also has worked with several multilateral organizations and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in these settings.

Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases

Dr Ren Minghui has served as WHO Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases since January 2016 and is continuing this work under his new title Assistant Director General for Communicable Diseases. Prior to this role, he was Director-General for International Cooperation in the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic f China. He brings nearly 30 years of public health experience, working on health policy and health reform in China’s Ministry of Health, where he focused primarily on health systems research and health insurance reform. Later, his work focused on international health cooperation, during which time he led a number of health committees and programmes, working closely with international partners. As part of this work, he oversaw the development of the China-Africa health cooperation process, initiated health cooperation with BRICS countries, and engaged in regional health cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and countries of the Greater Mekong subregion. In addition, he has served as Vice-chair of WHO’s Executive Board, a member of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, and a representative of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Dr Ren is a medical doctor and holds a PhD in Social Medicine and Health and a Masters in Public Health.

Dr Mariângela Batista Galvão Simão, Assistant Director-General for Drug Access, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals

Dr Mariângela Batista Galvão Simão from Brazil has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Drug Access, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals. Most recently, she was Director of Community Support, Social Justice and Inclusion at UNAIDS. In addition to her work at UNAIDS, she brings more than 30 years of experience working in the Brazilian public health system and has played an active role in enhancing access and decentralizing health services in the country. Between 2006 and 2010, she served as Director of the National STD/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Department in the Brazilian Ministry of Health, where she led successful price negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of HIV medication. During this time, she also represented the Brazilian Ministry of Health in the negotiations that led to the constitution of UNITAID in 2006, including its governing body, where she served as a board member until 2008. She was trained as a paediatrician in Brazil and holds an MSc degree in public health from University of London, United Kingdom.

Dr Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents

Dr Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela, from South Africa, has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents. Dr Simelela has more than 30 years of experience as an obstetrician, academic, advocate and government official. Most recently, she served as Special Advisor to the Vice President of the Republic of South Africa where her work spanned supporting the implementation of the country’s National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections to reviewing the country’s Expanded Public Works Program. Her other senior leadership roles in South Africa have included serving as Chief Executive Officer of the South African National AIDS Council, Director of Technical Knowledge and Support for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Cluster Manager for HIV, TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections for the South African Department of Health. She has also sat on a number of committees and boards, including the Executive Board of the WHO, representing IPPF from 2004 to 2009 and the WHO technical committee for the development of guidelines for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Mr Stewart Simonson, Assistant Director-General for General Management

Mr Stewart Simonson, from United States of America, has been appointed Assistant Director-General for General Management. He brings more than 20 years of experience in corporate governance, risk management and administration that spans across the government, nongovernmental and private sectors. His past roles include serving as Senior Vice President and General Counsel to the Futures Group Global LLC, and most recently, as Legal Advisor for the Crudem Foundation, where he functioned as legal counsel to the foundation and technical advisor to its partner hospital in Haiti. From 2001 to 2006, he served in the United States Department of Health and Human Services in different capacities, including as Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. In this role, he served as the Secretary’s principal advisor on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and coordinated the development of the United States government’s position on the revision of the International Health Regulations. He has degrees in law and political science.

Dr Joy St John, Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health

Dr Joy St John of Barbados has been appointed Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health. She brings more than 20 years of experience in public health management and health diplomacy, including serving as the Chief Medical Officer of Barbados for more than 10 years. In this role, she is responsible for several divisions of the Ministry of Health and has overseen Barbados’ engagement in global and regional bodies, including chairing the WHO’s Executive Board. Dr St John has also served as Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, during which time she fostered greater regional collaboration on health. She has degrees in medicine and public health and was trained in Barbados, Jamaica and the United States of America.

Ms Elizabeth Iro, Chief Nursing Officer

Elizabeth Iro

Elizabeth Iro has been appointed Chief Nursing Officer of WHO. From the Cook Islands, Ms Iro has served as the country’s Secretary of Health since 2012. In this role, she has implemented legislative reforms to strengthen the country’s health system and developed the National Health Strategy 2012-2016, the National Health Road Map 2017-2036, the National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the Health Clinical Workforce Plan, and the National Water Policy and Road Strategy. She has also been a key advocate for the introduction of sugar levies. Prior to this role, she served as the country’s Chief Nursing Officer from 2011 to 2012, as Acting Director of Hospital Health Services from 2009 to 2010 and as Quality Manager from 2008 to 2010. In addition, for the first 25 years of her career, she was a practising nurse and midwife, serving in several roles in the Cook Islands and New Zealand. This experience includes working as the Charge Midwife of Rarotonga Hospital’s Maternity Ward from 1997 to 2005.

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