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As Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, BA’73, MD’77, DSc’99, provides leadership on some of the most critical global health matters. And her extraordinary medical career started at Western.


Dr. Margaret Chan has been on the frontline of the global fight against H1N1, SARS and avian influenza – and is considered to be the most powerful international public health official in history.

In January 2012, Chan was nominated for a second term as chief of the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO). Director-General Chan was the only candidate put forward to the WHO's executive board who made the official nomination at a meeting in Geneva. The appointment was approved at the 65th World Health Assembly in May 2012.

Originally a teacher, she trained as a doctor at Western before returning to Hong Kong and heading the health department – just in time to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza.

After initially trying to reassure people that poultry was safe to eat, she ordered a cull of all 1.5 million ducks and chickens in Hong Kong – and her decision was seen as crucial in stopping the virus.

She was also at the helm when SARS hit. The then director-general of the WHO was so impressed with her response that he sought her out saying, "You are the only person who has managed crises. I have many armchair experts. I need generals."

When she was appointed director in 2006, she was clear about her priorities: "What matters most to me is people, and two specific groups of people in particular. I want us to be judged by the impact we have on the health of the people of Africa, and the health of women."

In June 2009, she became the first WHO chief in 41 years to announce a worldwide pandemic when H1N1 swept across the globe. As well as battling international viruses, she is also championing improvements in maternal care, HIV and AIDS care, malaria, and all of our most pressing diseases.

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