SWITZERLAND— Dr. Mike Ryan has been appointed as the new Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), succeeding Zsuzsanna Jakab, who retired in February, effective April 1.

Ryan will assume the position alongside his current role as the Executive Director of Health Emergencies, Preparedness, and Response, according to an internal staff communiqué sent out last Thursday.

With nearly 25 years of experience in managing acute risks to global health, Dr. Ryan first joined WHO in 1996, within a newly established unit responding to emerging and epidemic disease threats.

Prior to becoming Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, Ryan served as Assistant Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response in WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme from 2017 to 2019.

In this capacity, he has led WHO’s operational responses to high-impact events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the SARS epidemic. Additionally, he served as a Senior Advisor on Polio Eradication for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative from 2013 to 2017, deploying to countries in the Middle East.

In 1990, Ryan, an Irish epidemiologist who trained as a trauma surgeon, went to work in a hospital in Iraq that was being supported by the College of Surgeons in Ireland, supposedly for three months while he waited for his surgical residency to begin in Australia.

Dr. Ryan is a founding member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which has aided the response to hundreds of disease outbreaks around the world.

He completed his medical training at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and holds a Master’s in Public Health from University College Dublin, Ireland.

He also undertook specialist training in communicable disease control at the Health Protection Agency in London, United Kingdom, and the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the appointment publicly on Monday at an event at the WHO headquarters, describing Ryan as “the general” and a “soldier,” and thanking him “for all his sacrifices.”.

Dr. Tedros drew this from an interview with ‘Awake at Night’, a UN podcast series where Ryan highlighted his experiences, including being held as a hostage in Baghdad during the Iraq invasion of Kuwait and being injured in an accident involving a military convoy, which ended his career as a surgeon and led him to specialize in infectious diseases.

While accepting the offer, Ryan explained that his experiences motivated him to become an expert in infectious diseases, ultimately leading him to join WHO in 1996 under the leadership of David Heymann, who was setting up a new emerging disease program in WHO.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.