October 2012

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A Caribbean national has been elected as the new Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Dr. Carissa Etienne, a native of Dominica, was elected on September 19 by PAHO member states to lead the world’s oldest and foremost public health organisation.

A graduate of The UWI, Mona, Dr. Etienne will begin her five-year term in February, 2013, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, who has been PAHO Director since 2003. She follows in the distinguished footsteps of UWI Chancellor, Sir George Alleyne, who served as PAHO director from 1995 to 2003.

Vice Chancellor of The UWI, Professor E. Nigel Harris, said, “It is really gratifying to hear news of another of our graduates achieving the commanding heights of their profession. UWI has managed to produce so many leaders from so many Caribbean countries in so many fields. We are hopeful that Dr. Etienne will achieve the considerable successes in PAHO of another UWI graduate who became Director of PAHO, our Chancellor, Sir George Alleyne. This is a proud moment for the Caribbean and for our University!”

Dr. Etienne is currently Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Services, of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. From 2003 to 2008 she served as Assistant Director of PAHO, WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas. In her native Dominica, she served as Chief Medical Officer, Director of Primary Health Care Services, Disaster Coordinator, and National Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health. She also served as Coordinator of the National AIDS Program and as Chairman of the National AIDS Committee.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Etienne said it was a great honour for someone from such a tiny island as Dominica to lead such an important entity as PAHO. “For a woman from one of the smallest nations in the world to be elected to the helm of our distinguished and beloved PAHO is truly an honour and a privilege for me and my country, Dominica,” she told delegates to the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference, where she was selected ahead of four other candidates.