UWI Alumna Elected to Lead PAHO

ZIZ News…Nov 8, 2012 — A Caribbean national has been elected as the new Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Dr. Carissa Etienne, a native of Dominica, was elected on September 19th, 2012, by PAHO member states to lead the world’s oldest and foremost public health organisation.

A graduate of The University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Etienne will begin her five-year term on February 1st, 2013, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of Argentina, who has been PAHO Director since 2003. She follows in the distinguished footsteps of the Chancellor of UWI, Sir George Alleyne of Barbados, who served as PAHO director from 1995 to 2003.

Dr. Etienne is currently Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Services, of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. From 2003 to 2008 she served as Assistant Director of PAHO, WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas. She graduated from the Mona Campus of UWI with an MBBS in 1976. She also studied community health in developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she received a Master’s degree in 1982. In her native Dominica, she served as Chief Medical Officer, Director of Primary Health Care Services, Disaster Coordinator, and National Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health. She also served as Coordinator of the National AIDS Program and as Chairman of the National AIDS Committee.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Etienne said it was a great honour for someone from such a tiny island as Dominica to lead such an important entity. “For a woman from one of the smallest nations in the world to be elected to the helm of our distinguished and beloved PAHO is truly an honour and a privilege for me and my country, Dominica. I pledge to you that I shall do my best to live up to what I know are your high expectations,” she told delegates to the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference.

Dr. Etienne said she is looking forward to working for the countries of the Americas, which have achieved many advances in health and development, but which also face many challenges. “Our region is strong,” she said. “We now see political stability and economic prosperity in the region at unprecedented levels. At the same time, there are millions of people, some of them in our wealthiest member states, who do not have access to the social determinants of health or the health care they desperately need.”

In thanking the ministers of health of PAHO member countries for electing her, Dr. Etienne pledged to build on the rich tradition of pan-Americanism. “If we are to achieve our health goals at the local, national, and regional levels, we must work together in the spirit of solidarity that so characterises our region, sharing our knowledge with one another, and using our resources to serve those who need our help the most,” she said.

Extending congratulations on Dr. Etienne’s election as the new Director of PAHO, Vice Chancellor of The UWI, Professor E. Nigel Harris noted, “It is really gratifying to hear news of another of our graduates achieving the commanding heights of their profession. UWI has managed to produce so many leaders from so many Caribbean countries in so many fields. We are hopeful that Dr. Etienne will achieve the considerable successes in PAHO of another UWI graduate who became Director of PAHO, our Chancellor Sir George Allyene. This is a proud moment for the Caribbean and for our University!”

Chancellor Sir George Alleyne also offered congratulations to Dr. Etienne and reinforced the Vice Chancellor’s comments on her laudable achievements as a UWI graduate, adding that he had the utmost confidence in Dr. Etienne’s capabilities to continue the excellent work of PAHO.

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