20 Jan 2023
Washington D.C. 20 January 2023 – The official portrait of the outgoing Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, was unveiled today at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C.
Dr. Etienne, who is retiring after 10 years as PAHO Director, was declared Director-Emeritus on September 30, at the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference.
From a little girl in Massacre, Dominica, walking bare foot, 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. And if we keep that in our minds, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that child really develops,” Dr. Etienne said during the ceremony.
The portrait was painted by Greg Bailey, a young Jamaican fine artist who specializes in depicting persons of color in the context of postcolonialism.
“Representation is very important,” Bailey said, thanking PAHO for selecting him as the artist. “Over the course of the process, I think I managed to do justice to the portrait while successfully capturing the essence of Dr. Etienne – her beauty, her warmth, her posture and how she is positioned in her homeland of Dominica.”
Throughout her tenure, Dr. Etienne strengthened PAHO’s technical cooperation and spearheaded innovative partnerships with both foundations and the private sector.
She championed the achievement of Universal Health as an overarching goal for the Americas, based on the primary health care approach. This included developing strategies, policies and plans to expand access to comprehensive care, particularly for vulnerable populations and in underserved and rural areas, strengthening governance and stewardship in health, improved financing for health, and intersectoral action to address the social determinants of health.
Dr. Etienne established PAHO’s Department for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, advocating for policies to increase taxes on unhealthy food products and scaling-up interventions aligned with the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control. She also led the organization’s drive towards the elimination of diseases such as HIV, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, Chagas and others, and mobilized programs to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.
In her home-region of the Caribbean, Dr. Etienne spearheaded PAHO’s efforts to help countries adapt and respond to ever-increasing climate-related disasters, including hurricanes and floods. The SMART Hospitals Network, which began in 2015, has since facilitated the retrofitting of 50 health facilities in the small island states of the Caribbean to become safe, green and resilient to climate-related disasters.
With the second half of her tenure defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Etienne’s leadership was crucial in enabling the region to prepare for and mitigate the worse effects of the pandemic.
Under her leadership, PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines delivered over 151 million COVID-19 vaccines, contributing to the swift roll-out of this life-saving technology in the region.
A champion of staff wellbeing and productivity, Dr. Etienne also introduced a new people strategy, including a learning portal, updated information technology systems, and a telework policy to ensure better work-life balance at PAHO.
Thanking PAHO staff for their support throughout her tenure, Dr. Etienne said “I was able to do what you allowed me to do. What you supported me to achieve. I look like a good director because of you.”