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Soumya Swaminathan becomes first Indian to hold deputy director general post at WHO: All you need to know

A paediatrician and a clinical scientist by profession and known for her research on tuberculosis, 58-year-old Soumya Swaminathan has been appointed as the deputy director general of programmes of the World Health Organisation (WHO). She will be holding the second-highest position in the global body. Currently, Soumya is the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

WHO appointed Soumya Swaminathan as the deputy director general for programmes. Twitter/@doctorsoumya

WHO appointed Soumya Swaminathan as the deputy director general for programmes. Twitter/@doctorsoumya

Daughter of MS Swaminathan, the acclaimed geneticist and father of green revolution, Soumya would be working under Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who took over this July. Described as the ‘Father of Economic Ecology’ by the United Nations Environment Programme, Swaminathan was named by Time magazine as one of the 20 most influential Indians of the 20th century, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

Soumya's position is also the highest post held by an Indian in the WHO.

She was earlier the director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai. Soumya will be the deputy director general for programmes (DDP) and Jane Ellison will be the deputy director general for corporate operations (DDC), said the WHO director general, while announcing his senior leadership team on Tuesday.

Soumya has also served as the director general of the ICMR, an apex body in India for biomedical research, for over two years now. She is responsible for increasing focus on tuberculosis research and created a consortium for tuberculosis research in India called "India TB Research and Development Corporation". The consortium is aimed at bringing together all major national and international stakeholders to develop new tools to combat tuberculosis including drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

The WHO announcement described her as "a globally-recognised 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". Soumya graduated from the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, got her MD degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and did a fellowship at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

According to WHO, from 2009 to 2011 Soumya also served as Coordinator of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) in Geneva.

Soumya has also been a member of several WHO and global advisory bodies, 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. She was also the co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis, The Hindu reported.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2017 15:29 PM

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