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Swearing-in Ceremony for Dr. Carissa Etienne

January 31, 2013
Washington, DC

Good morning.  I’m pleased to be here today with so many distinguished guests as we celebrate this new chapter for the Pan American Health Organization.

I want to start by joining in expressing my gratitude to Dr. Mirta Roses.  For ten years, Dr. Roses has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the health of all people across the Americas.

As the first woman to serve as Director of PAHO, she has broken down barriers.  And she is leaving behind a remarkable record of accomplishment.

On her watch, this organization has become a leader in addressing the growing challenge of non-communicable diseases.  It’s drawn global attention to the importance of immunizations.  It’s been instrumental in responding to public health emergencies, including H1N1, the Haiti earthquake, and cholera in Hispaniola.  And it has been thanks in large part to PAHO and the leadership of Dr. Roses that endemic measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome have been eliminated from an entire hemisphere.

Our department worked closely with PAHO on many of these initiatives.  And I want to personally thank you, Dr. Roses, for your leadership, for your partnership, and for all of your hard work over these last ten years.

Fortunately, Dr. Roses is being replaced by another woman with great experience and a deep commitment to global health.  I want to congratulate Dr. Carissa Etienne, from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, on her new role as Director.  And I want to congratulate my fellow Ministers of Health for their selection of another inspiring woman to lead this organization.

Dr. Etienne will bring to this job a wealth of expertise in tackling many of the most difficult health challenges of our time.  She’s devoted her career to strengthening health systems, reducing health disparities, and addressing social and environmental determinants of health.

And I have no doubt that under her leadership, PAHO will remain an effective vehicle for building a collaborative, global approach to public health, and addressing our shared challenges.

Today, this international collaboration is more important than ever—and not just in times of crisis.  It’s only by working together that we can reach our full capacity to develop life-saving vaccines, address the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations, and conduct the groundbreaking research that will shape the future of public health.  And PAHO embodies that spirit of cooperative action.

Today, we have more opportunities to work together to improve health than ever before.  And I look forward to working with Dr. Etienne as we continue to seize those opportunities on behalf of all those we serve.

Congratulations.