Canadian medical humanitarian wins PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership

Dr. Joanne Liu of Canada

Washington, D.C. 22 September 2021 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has recognized Dr. Joanne Liu of Canada for her service to public health by presenting her with the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership. The recognition was made at the 59th PAHO Directing Council, a gathering of health leaders from the region of the Americas, held virtually this year.

The award acknowledges Dr. Liu’s outstanding contributions in the areas of medical humanitarianism and health crisis response and management, both in Canada and internationally, as well as her expertise in pandemic response and health system preparedness.

Conferring this year’s honor on Dr. Liu, Christopher Tufton, President of PAHO’s 59th Directing Council and Jamaican Minister of Health and Wellness, highlighted her significant contributions to the region, including “her leadership in health emergencies and crisis response around the world, and her commitment to delivering health services to those living in the most vulnerable situations – all of which encompass key PAHO values.”

Dr. Liu is a practicing pediatric emergency physician and has worked in this context in more than 20 countries across the globe. She is the former President of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), a recognized authority on medical humanitarian crises, and was a key figure in the global response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

In the Region of the Americas, Dr. Liu is known for her work in assisting communities affected by the earthquake and cholera epidemic in Haiti in 2010, and for her support to Honduras in strengthening the country’s health care system.

In 2015, she was selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people, where she was heralded as a crusader for global health.

Most recently, Dr. Liu has served as a member of the WHO Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, lending her expertise in the assessment of challenges to address health threats based on learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanking PAHO for the honor and recognition, Dr. Liu praised countries of the Americas for refusing to stand still in the face of vaccine inequality and called on Member States to “mobilize political and financial alignment on tackling the full range of issues relating to pandemic preparedness and response.”

Established in 1969, the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership is a recognition by the governments of the Americas to outstanding contributions to improve health systems and services, and to programs, projects or initiatives with proven effects on access to health care at the national or regional level, among others.

Previous winners include Dr. Reina Roa Rodriguez of Panama, Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer of Belize, Dr. Stella Bolaños Varela of Costa Rica and Dr Pastor Castell-Florit Serrate of Cuba.