Dr. Etienne will begin her five-year term on 1 February 2013, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of Argentina, who has been PAHO Director since 2003.
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 acceptance speech, Dr. Etienne said she looked forward to working for the countries of the Americas, which have achieved many advances in health and development, but which also face many challenges.
“Our Region is strong,” said Dr. Etienne. “We now see political stability and economic prosperity in the Region at unprecedented levels. 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. Seventy -four million living in conditions of extreme poverty. This is a reflection of the inequities that afflict many of our Member States and our Region and present a challenge to us all to strive for social justice, to ensure social inclusion, and to be proactive in addressing the needs of vulnerable and marginalized peoples.”
Dr. Etienne said her vision of the Americas is one 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.”
This vision is based on “the hopes and dreams that I have kindled during a career in public health spanning more than 30 years,” she added.
In thanking the ministers of health of PAHO member countries for electing her, Dr. Etienne pledged to build on the rich tradition of Pan Americanism.
“If we are to achieve our health goals at the local, national, and regional levels, we must work together in the spirit of solidarity that so characterizes our Region, sharing our knowledge with one another, and using our resources to serve those who need our help the most,” she said.
At WHO, Dr. Etienne led efforts to renew primary health care (PHC) at the global level and to strengthen health systems based on PHC, promoting integration and improved functioning of health systems. She has also promoted policy directions to reduce health inequalities and advance health for all through universal coverage, people-centered care, the integration of health into broader public policies, and inclusive and participatory health leadership. At PAHO, she led the renewal of PHC in the Americas and the development of a regional strategy for implementing PHC-based health systems, including Integrated Health Service Delivery Networks.
As PAHO Director, Dr. Etienne said she would seek positive change in close collaboration with the Organization’s member countries.
“Some people have called me a reformer, a change agent,” she told delegates to the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference. “I accept these titles and I hope to take PAHO forward in new and challenging directions, working hand in hand with PAHO’s able and dedicated staff. At the same time, I pledge never to forget that PAHO belongs to you, the Member States, and that I am your humble servant.”
Dr. Etienne holds degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of the West Indies as well as a master’s in community health and an honorary diploma in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In her native Dominica, she served as Chief Medical Officer (in 2000-2002 and 1995-1996), 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. She served twice as Medical Director of the Princess Margaret Hospital and was an Associate Professor at the Ross University School of Medicine.
Former PAHO Directors include Sir George Alleyne (1995-2003), Dr. Carlyle Guerra de Macedo (1983-1995), Dr. Héctor Acuña (1975-1983), Dr. Abraham Horwitz (1959-1975), Dr. Fred Soper (1947-1959), Dr. Hugh Cumming (1920-1947), Dr. Rupert Blue (1912-1920) y Dr. Walter Wyman (1902-1911).
PAHO celebrates its 110th anniversary this year and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the peoples of the Americas and serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.