(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. the Hon. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, have expressed their delight at the election of the CARICOM Candidate, Dr. Carissa Etienne as the new Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Dr. Etienne, a national of Dominica was elected from a slate of three candidates who vied for the position, on Wednesday, 19 September 2012, by PAHO Member States during the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference, in Washington. She will begin her five-year tenure on 1 February 2013, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of Argentina, who has been PAHO Director since 2003.
According to the CARICOM Chairman, Dr. Etienne has distinguished herself nationally, regionally and internationally in medicine and public health sector development particularly in the area HIV / AIDS, primary health care and epidemiology. The Community, he stated, at its 33rd Regular Conference in Saint Lucia had fully endorsed Dr. Etienne’s candidacy and would continue to give its full support throughout her tenure.
Meanwhile, CARICOM Secretary-General, in adding his commendation, stated “We are confident that Dr Etienne has the capabilities and the vision to provide the astute leadership to health sector development in the Region of the Americas at this time, and we are justly proud of her.”
In her acceptance speech, Dr. Etienne, who now serves as Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Services, of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, noted that the Region of the Americas had made significant strides in health and development but was still facing many challenges.
“Our Region is strong,” she affirmed. “… At the same time, there are millions of people, some of them in our wealthiest Member States, that do not have access to the social determinants of health or the health care they desperately need.” In this regard, the newly elected PAHO Director pledged to build on the rich tradition of Pan Americanism in order to realize her vision of “societies free of inequality, where people have access to healthy social determinants and environments that allow them to live long, dignified, healthy, and productive lives. This includes access to universal health services without fear of being impoverished.”
She further thanked health Ministers and Member States for supporting her and urged them to work together “in the spirit of solidarity” to achieve health goals at the national and regional levels.
Dr. Etienne has had a career in medicine and public health for over thirty-five years. She began her career as a medical officer at the Princess Margaret Hospital, where she eventually became the Chief Medical Officer. Throughout her career, she has gained extensive knowledge and experience in various aspects of health management, health systems and health-care delivery, including management of essential drugs, human resource management for primary health care and the integration of health programmes and systems.
In addition to serving in her country, Dr. Etienne has been very active in the regional public health arena, particularly in the transformation of health systems and the introduction of a primary health care approach. She has had a long history of collaboration with PAHO/WHO, and is reputed for her pivotal role in promoting Primary Health Care at the global level, strengthening health care systems, health services delivery and promoting policy directions that advanced equity in health care.
Her illustrious career is bolstered by a solid academic background, holding degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of the West Indies, a Master’s in Community Health and an honorary diploma in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.