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Former PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne dies

Published:Friday | December 1, 2023 | 9:21 AM
Dr Carissa F. Etienne. - Contributed photo.

WASHINGTON, CMC – Former director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dominican-born Dr Carissa F. Etienne died Friday.

She was 71.

She reportedly passed away due to heart failure.

Etienne, who recently retired after 10 years as director, was declared Director-Emeritus on September 30, 2022, at the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference.

“From a little girl in Massacre, Dominica, walking barefoot, going to school, being as every other child was. If that child can rise to become director of PAHO, then there is hope for every child that walks the streets of the Americas (including the Caribbean),” said Etienne during the ceremony.

“Carissa was a dear friend and colleague, and under her steadfast leadership and guidance, PAHO achieved significant milestones for the region of the Americas while facing one of our greatest public health challenges with COVID-19,” PAHO Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said in a statement today.

“I am very saddened by her passing, and my thoughts are with her family, friends and all of us at PAHO who cared deeply for her,” he added.

During Etienne's tenure, PAHO led the response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic in the region of the Americas, as well as efforts to control Zika and chikungunya epidemics and cholera and yellow fever outbreaks in Haiti and Brazil, while significantly improving the Organization's response to emergencies and disasters within 48 hours.

Under her leadership, the Americas eliminated the endemic transmission of measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome, and made considerable strides in the prevention and control of chronic non-communicable diseases.

Legislative and regulatory mechanisms gained traction, as countries enacted legislation on the labelling of food products and introduced taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Prior to becoming PAHO Director, from March 2008 to November 2012, Etienne served as Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Before that, she served as Assistant Director of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau from July 2003 to February 2008, where she led five technical areas: Health Systems and Services; Technology, Health Care, and Research; Health Surveillance and Disease Management; Family and Community Health; and Sustainable Development and Environmental Health.

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