WHO names candidates for next director-general

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released the names of 6 candidates for the role of the agency's next director-general, 4 of whom are from Europe, with 1 each from Asia and Africa.

The current director-general, Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, will step down next June, after more than 10 years of service. The new director-general will start the position on Jul 1, 2017.

The director-general is the de facto head of the WHO, overseeing all technical and administrative tasks for the organization. The WHO's 194 member states had 5 months to submit nominations.

The candidates are Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, from Ethiopia; Flavia Bustreo, MD, from Italy; Philippe Douste-Blazy, MD, from France; David Nabarro, MD, from the United Kingdom; Sania Nishtar, MD, from Pakistan; and Miklos Szocska, MD, of Hungary.

The candidates have some similar backgrounds; five are medical doctors, and all but Nabarro and Bustreo have served as health ministers in their home countries. Nabarro is currently a special adviser to the United Nations on sustainable development, and Bustreo is an assistant director-general at the WHO.

Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which publishes CIDRAP News, said the next director-general faces "immense" challenges given the WHO's lack of funding and organization.

"There hasn't been a fundamental change in structure at the WHO even post-Ebola," said Osterholm. "Until we get serious about [the] shortcomings of the WHO, it's a mistake to pin too much on the director-general."

The pool of candidates will be narrowed down to three through interviews with the WHO's executive board by next January. An election will be held in May of 2017 at the World Health Assembly.

See also:

Sep 23 WHO news release

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