by Auburn Mann
Amid the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, the respiratory disease which has infected over 4 million people worldwide over the past several months, the World Health Organization(WHO) in Geneva Switzerland has been a global beacon of information and guidance, led by the Ethiopian (currently Eritrea) born Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Dr. Ghebreyesus is a microbiologist with a background in malaria research. Born in Asmara in 1965, his path was pushed toward healthcare at an early age when his brother was one of the many casualties of mid-20th century, disease-stricken Ethiopia, passing from a preventable ailment like the measles. Ghebreyesus went on to graduate from the University of Asmara with a B.S. in Biology. After college he joined the Ethiopian Government’s Ministry of Health in 1986, where he helped implement system-wide health reforms that drastically improved access to health services in the country. Ghebreyesus would matriculate into the University of London’s London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine where he earned a M.S. in Immunology of Infectious Diseases. Eventually, Ghebreyesus would earn his PhD in Community Health from the University of Nottingham in 2000.
In 2001, he was appointed head of the Tigray Regional Health Bureau, which oversaw significant reduction in AIDs and Meningitis cases in Ethiopia. In 2005, he was appointed Minister of Health by Prime Minister Zenawi. He held this position until 2012, when he transitioned into the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 2016, Ghebreyesus announced his candidacy for WHO’s Director General. He campaigned on ideas of universal health coverage and the endorsements of the African Union, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Rwanda and Kenya, as well as Algeria’s Minister of Health.
Dr. Ghebreyesus ended up winning in a commanding victory of 133 out of 185 votes. He was not only the first African to attain the position, but also the first non-physician