USA | Feb 1, 2023

Barbosa for the win – new PAHO director sworn in

/ Our Today

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Dr. Jarbas Barbosa taking the oath as he was sworn in today new director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) at a ceremony in Washington DC on Tuesday, January 31, 2023. (Photo:

Dr Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., director-designate of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), embarks on a five-year term today (February 1) after being sworn into office during a ceremony in Washington DC the day prior.

He succeeds Dr Carissa Etienne, under whose tenure he served as assistant director. Etienne, a native of Dominica, demitted office after serving two five-year terms at the helm of PAHO, beginning 2012.

Dr Barbosa, a Brazilian, was elected by delegates of PAHO Member States that participated in the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference in Washington, last September.

He topped the field of five candidates, who included nominees from Haiti, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, and Conference Vice President, Molwyn Joseph, presided over the ceremony, which was held at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters.

PAHO serves as the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Americas. As a result, Dr Barbosa has been appointed WHO Regional Director.

In his inaugural speech, Barbosa outlined five strategic pillars that he will be focusing on during his tenure.

These, he informed, were a commitment to help PAHO Member States end the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas with the best tools available, particularly surveillance and vaccines; spearheading the application of lessons learnt from the pandemic to address the region’s vulnerabilities.

“And better prepare countries to face new threats as they emerge; ensure timely and equitable access to health innovations for all countries; build resilient national health systems based on renewed and strengthened primary healthcare and strengthening PAHO’s capacity to support Member States.”

He expressed gratitude to Dr Etienne, describing her as “my friend and mentor”, for allowing him to serve as her assistant director.

Dr Carissa Etienne out going director at PAHO. (Photo: JIS)

“I commit to serving PAHO to the best of my ability, guided by the knowledge and experience I have accumulated during my years working in public health.”


He noted that despite their coming from countries that seem so different, he was “always amazed at how similar our perspectives and approaches are”, adding that “I believe this is because, at heart, we are both guided by our commitment.”

Dr Barbosa said he was “proud and excited” to be leading PAHO, pointing out that he was grateful to the Member States reposing confidence in him.

“I commit to serving PAHO to the best of my ability, guided by the knowledge and experience I have accumulated during my years working in public health,” he said.

Dr Etienne, in her remarks, described her successor as an exceptional technical and scientific leader, with strong competencies in epidemiology, medicine, and public health.

She noted that these attributes were “substantially and solidly” displayed in his contributions to his country, PAHO, WHO and the global health community.

The outgoing director said her successor has “excellent listening skills, a characteristic that is so critical for effective leadership”.

“As I demit this office and hand the steering wheel over to my esteemed friend and colleague [Dr Barbosa], I am confident that the future of the organisation will be in good hands,” she stated.

Dr Etienne continued, “as you will bring to your new role, exceptional expertise and astute policymaking skills, together with pragmatism and wisdom drawn from your many years of experience gained in your home country, Brazil, as well as internationally.”

She also expressed gratitude to the Member States for affording her the “honour and privilege” to serve as PAHO Director and for their active support throughout the past 10 years of her tenure.

Logo of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“I must also convey my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all PAHO personnel, past and present, for their unstinting dedication and persistent commitment to the mission of this organisation. Thanks also to the many donors and collaborators who believed in our mission – the Mission of PAHO – and stood by us,” Dr Etienne said.

Several prominent local, regional, and global figures delivered congratulatory messages to Dr Barbosa on his appointment.

Among them were Brazil’s newly elected President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Minister of Health, Nísia Trinidade Lima; United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra; WHO Director General, DrTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; OAS Secretary General, Luia Almargo and PAHO Directors Emeritus – Carlyle de Macedo, Sir George Alleyene, and Mirta Roses.


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