Hanan Balkhy: Pioneering as the first Saudi woman appointed as WHO Regional Director

She will assume her duties in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region as of Feb. 1, 2024
Hanan Balkhy: Pioneering as the first Saudi woman appointed as WHO Regional Director
Dr. Hanan Balkhi

Hanan Balkhy has been elected as the Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, as announced by the organization itself.

In a statement, WHO announced that Hanan Balkhy will assume office on February 1, 2024, to serve the 745 million people residing in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region and its 22 territories.

As stated by the Saudi Ministry of Health, Dr. Hanan Balkhy secured the highest number of votes from member states during the 70th session of the organization’s regional committee, which took place in Cairo from October 9 to 12.

Balkhy’s victory reflects Saudi Arabia’s ongoing dedication to achieving excellence and demonstrating leadership in the realm of health, both at the national and international levels. The government fully supports this achievement, which aligns harmoniously with the objectives outlined in Saudi Vision 2030. This visionary plan seeks to empower women by promoting their active participation in influential leadership positions, both domestically and on the global stage.

Read more: Sheila Alrowaily, the first woman to serve on SAMA’s board of directors

Who’s Hanan Balkhy? 

Hanan Balkhy is a prominent Saudi scientist and international expert who has dedicated nearly 25 years of her career to serving as a physician specializing in public health, child health, and communicable diseases. Also, throughout her extensive experience, she has acquired extensive knowledge and expertise in effectively managing disease outbreaks and handling emergency situations related to public health crises.

Additionally, she has held several notable positions within the field of infectious diseases. She served as the Executive Director of the Infectious Diseases Control Section at King Abdulaziz Medical City, as well as the Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at King Abdullah International Medical Research Centre Furthermore, she has been appointed as and the Director of the Collaborating Center for Infection Control and Antibiotic Resistance at WHO.

Among the various positions Hanan Balkhy has undertaken, some of the notable positions include:

  • Professor in pediatric infectious diseases at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences
  • Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization for Antimicrobial Resistance in Geneva since May 2019
  • Contributed to the formulation and implementation of health policies in Saudi
  • She devoted a great deal of her interest to scientific research
  • She also established a national research program that aims at advancing the reality of public health from a “one health” perspective

Accolades & awards

Furthermore, throughout her impactful career in both practical and educational domains, Hanan Balkhy has been honored with several prestigious awards, including:

  • The International Researcher Award.
  • The Senior Leadership and Scientific Research Award.
  • The first award for the partnership between the Society for Healthcare. Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). 

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