Dr Soumya Swaminathan is probably going through the busiest phase of her life as a globally renowned healthcare professional. The virus outbreak and number of vaccine trials have put the spotlight on the World Health Organisation (WHO). As the first Chief Scientist of the Geneva-based WHO, Swaminathan has been busy offering suggestions to countries to step up measures to fight the pandemic, and taking stock of the situation on a day-to-day basis. "Covid-19 vaccines are expected by the year-end, vaccination of public will realistically begin in the middle of 2021," she recently said at a virtual press conference organised by WHO.
Swaminathan joined WHO as Deputy Director General (DDG) in 2017, the first Indian to reach the post. In 2019, when the worlds apex health institution decided to form a public health division to modernise the organisation to be more effective in global public health interventions, it chose Swaminathan as the Chief Scientist.
From 2015 to 2017, she was Secretary to the Government of India for Health, and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Her focus was to bring science and evidence into health policymaking, building research capabilities in Indian medical schools and forging partnerships in health sciences.
The daughter of M.S. Swaminathan, a world-renowned scientist and the father of India's green revolution, she has published more than 350 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. She started her career as a paediatrician after studies in India, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the US.