WHO Leadership Shake-up Takes Shape
WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Ren Minghui

Two of the World Health Organisation’s top leadership team in Geneva – Dr Soumya Swaminathan and Dr Ren Minghui – are on the brink of leaving as Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s long-anticipated leadership shake-up starts to take shape.

Swaminathan is WHO’s Chief Scientist, while Ren serves as assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases.

Meanwhile, Stéphanie Seydoux has been appointed as the WHO Director-General’s Envoy for Multilateral Affairs, replacing Dr Agnès Buzyn, who was appointed executive director of the WHO Academy in Lyon recently and remains on the leadership team in her new role.

Seydoux is the former French Global Health Ambassador. France has been a firm supporter of WHO and is the major investor in the new academy, which is expected to open in 2024, which will offer health workers around the world access to “the latest evidence-based health guidance, state-of-the-art learning technologies and advancements in the science of adult learning”, according to WHO.

WHO Deputy Director Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab is also expected to leave soon. The 71-year-old Hungarian is well over the WHO mandatory retirement age of 65 – which can usually only be extended by three years. 

As Health Policy Watch previously reported, 63-year-old Swaminathan is still two years short of WHO’s mandatory age of retirement, but there have been hints that her style was too independent for the director-general. 

However, a source close to Swaminathan said that she was leaving voluntarily after five years in senior WHO leadership to reunite with her husband and elderly parents who remained in her hometown of Chennai, India, while she served in Geneva.

Prior to WHO, Ren was director-general for international cooperation at the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China.

Conversely, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, who had earlier been expected to leave the organization, appears set to remain, several WHO insiders with knowledge of the pending reshuffle confirmed.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.