Indian doctor Soumya Swaminathan to be appointed as Deputy DG of WHO

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In what could be a shining moment for India in the global health scenario, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, is likely to take over as the deputy director general of World Health Organization (WHO), sources from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) confirmed.
WHO is yet to make an official announcement about her posting. Dr Swaminathan also holds the post of Secretary, Health Research in MoHFW. The 58-year-old is a paediatrician and a clinical scientist. She is known for her research on Tuberculosis. She is the daughter of MS Swaminathan (92), the acclaimed Indian geneticist and father of green revolution.

The new director general of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took over office from Dr Margaret Chan in July 2016. He insisted that the old team continue for three months, after which a new team appointed by the DG be brought in, sources said.

In her new role, Dr Swaminathan will look over all operations of WHO, including monitoring of communicable and non-communicable diseases except for emergencies, and hold the number two position in WHO after the DG.

The current deputy DG at WHO is Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah from Ghana. "The WHO DG has a carte blanche to appoint officials from across the globe to WHO. WHO draws up a list and approaches respective countries to approve of the appointment," a source said.

Dr Swaminathan has been serving as DG ICMR for over two years now. ICMR is the apex body in India for biomedical research. A repository on clinical research and public health, Dr Swaminathan's earlier stint in WHO was as Co-ordinator, Research in Neglected Priorities, TDR (Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases) from 2009 to 2011.

As Deputy DG, she will hold office in Geneva. "The term of WHO DG is five years. Usually, the entire team stays on with the DG, whose term can get extended for a maximum period of an additional five years," said the source.

"I would not want to comment on the posting until an official announcement is made to this regard," Dr Swaminathan told DNA.
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Dr. Soumya Swaminathan



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