Dr. Margaret Chan is the Director-General of the World Health Organization. Though she is from the People’s Republic of China, she was educated at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, earning her BA and then her medical degree in 1973 and 1997, respectively. She began her career at the Hong Kong Department of Health in 1978. While there, she studied at the Singapore National University, earning a master’s degree in public health in 1985.
In 1994, Dr. Chan was appointed Director of Health of Hong Kong, a position she held for nine years. As director, she launched new services to prevent the spread of disease and promote better overall health, introduced new initiatives to improve disease surveillance and response, enhanced training for public health professionals, and established better local and international collaboration. She had to handle several major public health crises during her tenure, including outbreaks of H5:N1 avian influenza in 1997 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (or SARS) in 2003.
In late 2003, Dr. Chan joined the WHO as Director of the Department for Protection of the Human Environment and held several positions before she became the second female Director-General of the WHO in 2006 and was appointed for a second five-year term in 2012. Dr. Chan faced a major challenge in 2015 during the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Despite nearly a decade of preparedness efforts, the outbreak highlighted gaps in the global community’s ability to respond to a major pandemic. In a 2015 interview for NOVA, Dr. Chan had this to say, “The world needs to prepare itself for future pandemics. … We are better prepared than we were a year ago, but we still need to do more. … Everyone needs to remember that Ebola was not a worst-case scenario. … I am personally overseeing changes that include the establishment of a global health emergency workforce.” In addition to pandemic preparedness, Dr. Chan is also working to establish new R&D protocols to improve response, facing outbreaks of MERS, and trying to combat the increase in antibiotic-resistance.
Suggested by Sweta Batni.
Written by Nicole Hutchison