Director-general, World Health Organization
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ career is marked by firsts. The Ethiopian biologist and public health researcher is the first African director-general of the World Health Organization and the first director-general who is not a medical doctor.
Ghebreyesus was also the first director-general elected in a vote open to all member states and had women representing 60% of appointments in his senior leadership team. He campaigned on the issue of universal health coverage and made it the focus of his speech during the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly.
Ghebreyesus oversaw the WHO management of the Kivu Ebola epidemic, but the hardest challenge of his career to date remains the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite some criticism over his timing of declaring the pandemic and working with the Chinese government, Ghebreyesus urged countries to increase testing for the virus.
He stressed the virus should not be politicized when President Donald Trump threatened to cut U.S. funding to the WHO in April and pulled the U.S. out of the organization in July, effective in one year. In June, he discussed how new evidence about the virus prompted the WHO to encourage mask wearing. During the height of the pandemic, his following on Twitter grew to 1.2 million, and he used the platform to keep the world abreast of developments.
Before the WHO, he was the Minister of Health of Ethiopia, where he was elected the board chair of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.