Meet Dr Soumya Swaminathan, first Indian to hold second highest post at WHO

Dr Soumya Swaminathan is a pediatrician with over 30 years of experience in clinical care and research

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has been appointed as the Deputy Director General of programmes of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Notably, it is the highest ever post held by an Indian at the UN agency. Making the announcement, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Dr Swaminathan had been appointed to one of the two Deputy Director General posts. The 58-year-old is a paediatrician with over 30 years of experience in clinical care and research.

“The team represents 14 countries, including all WHO regions, and is more than 60% women, 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,” said Dr Tedros in a press statement.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan is the daughter of MS Swaminathan, the renowned geneticist and father of the green revolution. After completing her MBBS from Pune’s Armed Forces Medical College, she got her MD degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Thereafter, she did a fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. She has gained global recognition for her research work on tuberculosis and HIV. She is credited to have led an international TB consortium that works to create more research and diagnostic tools to tackle the infectious bacterial disease.

Dr Swaminathan has been a part of 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. She was also the co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis, the Hindu reported. She has also served as the director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai. She has received over nine awards in the field of medicine so far.