The outgoing Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, bid farewell to colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva today, in her final remarks before the organization’s Executive Board.
Dr. Roses thanked WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and other WHO officials for their support during her two terms as Director of PAHO and WHO’s Regional Director for the Americas.
“I have been extremely privileged to serve this organization for 29 years. I have had extraordinary mentors, role models, supervisors, peers, collaborators, assistants, colleagues, and above all the common people that have allowed me to learn from their suffering and expectations,” said Dr. Roses. “I have been extremely lucky in being able to see diseases eradicated from the world and from my Region. I have been part of the strengthening of WHO and the UN and I have accompanied the creation of new integration institutions, the most recent among them UNASUR (Union of Nations of South America) and CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency). I was present during the renewal of Primary Health Care and witnessed the harnessing of new information and communication technologies for improving people's health and institutional performance.”
Dr. Roses called on international partners to support and strengthen WHO, which she said remains uniquely positioned to provide global public health leadership.
“Only WHO has the stated mandates, the legal basis and the universal and equal participation of all nations to be both credible and capable of delivering on norms and standards and to act as honest broker on policy advice,” she said. “The continued and creative forging of new alliances for public health, with international, national, nongovernmental, private and community-based actors is critical to better address global, regional and country health needs. WHO leadership requires strengthening and support from all partners to be able to confront these challenges and to remain both relevant and fit for purpose.”
Dr. Roses was originally elected PAHO Director in 2002 and was the first woman and the first Argentine to serve in the post. She has received multiple honors for her 40-year career in medicine and public health, including Spain’s Civil Order of Health, Bolivia’s Order of Public Health, Ecuador’s Decoration of Merit in Public Health, Nicaragua’s Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Order of Freedom, and the Dominican Republic’s Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella; as well as honorary doctorates and professorships from universities throughout the Americas and in Spain. After Jan. 31, she will become Director-Emeritus of PAHO.