March 8 is International Working Women’s Day. Today we celebrate the women in our life. Despite the many advances made by women in various sectors of work, women still don’t get there. So, this day is dedicated for the invincible. Soumya Swaminathan, the newly appointed Chief Scientist of WHO and the former Deputy General of WHO is one such woman. Let’s celebrate her story.

Who is Soumya Swaminathan?

Coming from a scientist father who pioneered the Green revolution, Soumya Swaminathan had an illustrious career as an Indian scientist, working in various critical fields including diseases like AIDS and Tuberculosis.

She became the deputy director general (DDG) of World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017. After serving 1 and a half years as a DDG, she has now been appointed as a Chief Scientist of WHO, a first for an Indian.

She has previously served as the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). She has been on various global teams working on public health such as with the WHO, UN, Lancet, UNICEF, UNDP and World Bank.

Why is this important?

She was the first Indian and first Indian woman to hold this position. The new DDG, Zsuzsanna Jakab is also a woman. Jacob is currently regional director for WHO Europe.

The WHO calls this their “most wide-ranging reforms in the organisation’s history to modernise and strengthen the institution.”

Swaminathan’s transfer comes as part of a sweeping rejig at the WHO.

WHO’s Present Structure

View image on Twitter

James Love@jamie_love

The new WHO Structure, announced today.109:53 PM – Mar 6, 2019 · Washington, DCSee James Love’s other TweetsTwitter Ads info and privacyView image on Twitter

View image on Twitter


This is the new structure of ⁦@WHO⁩ headquarters406:28 PM – Mar 6, 201932 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

How will it help the world?

According to a WHO press release, the chief scientist role that Swaminathan takes on is a newly-created division meant to boost WHO’s scientific work and ensure more quality and consistency in it. Reuters reports that this is also to ensure that WHO is at the top of “frontier technologies” so that its member countries can benefit first from breakthrough research.

Aims & Objectives of The New Division

The aim of this new division headed by Swaminathan is also to create new career opportunities for scientists. Earlier this year, WHO’s Director-General Tedros had spoken about how scientists should have an environment that allows them to pursue science, without having to try for managerial positions in order to go up in their career tracks. “We don’t want our scientists to compete for director position; we want them to grow through a professional stream,” he reportedly said.

What’s in it for medical professionals?

Apart from this, the WHO’s rejig will also see the set-up of a “WHO Academy” to provide training to an estimated ten million public health professionals globally and also provide learning opportunities for current staff.

The WHO also plans to start a new division for data and analytics, geared towards driving policy change.

Source: The Wire