Fmr PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne dies

Dr Carissa Etienne

See full statement from the Ministry of Health: 

(Georgetown- December 01, 2023) – The Minister of Health and the Ministry of Health extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Carissa Etienne, former Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAH0) and World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Americas who died earlier today from a heart attack. News of her untimely death has sent shock waves around the global public health community.

The Ministry of Health, Honourable Dr Frank Anthony is saddened by the sudden death of Dr. Etienne who has always been a friend of the public health system and Guyana.

Dominica, her country of birth where she served many years as a doctor at the St. Margaret Hospital in Dominica, as the Public Health Officer and the Chief Medical Officer has truly lost a citizen of worth. But Domica’s loss is also the loss for CARICOM, a region that has produced many public health heroes. Dr. Carissa Etienne was one of the CARICOM Region’s long lists of public health heroines and heroes who emerged to be a global public health leader.

Dr. Etienne last served the Latin America and Caribbean Region and the Americas as Director of PAHO, a position she was elected to in 2012 and assumed in January 2013. She was re-elected as Director in 2018 and completed a second term as Director in January 2023.

In December 2022, on one of her last visits to Guyana when Guyana’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Dr. Frank Anthony, hosted a national farewell for Dr. Etienne, she committed PAHO to an enhanced collaboration with Guyana’s public health sector. Even at the end of her term as Director, Dr. Etienne looked out for the health and welfare of the Guyanese people.

Dr Etienne also served before 2013, first, as the Deputy Director of PAHO from 2003 to 2008 in Washinton, and, second, as an Assistant Director General of the WHO until 2012, after which she was elected as Director of PAHO.

Guyana benefitted enormously from Dr Etienne’s tenure as Director of PAHO between 2013 and 2023. During her tenure as Director of PAHO, she led PAHO’s drive to meet the goals of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as articulated in the SDGs 2030. In this regard, Dr Etienne committed resources and human capital to assist Guyana in meeting her targets for UHC. In Particular, Dr Etienne was passionate that the UHC model catalyzes the promotion of health services to tackle the scourge of the Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The HEART Programme in Guyana is an example of how under her leadership, PAHO guided the introduction of UHC in our country.

Given her early work in Dominica and her sterling contributions to Health Systems Development as an Assistant Director General at WHO, it is not surprising that Dr Etienne was a staunch supporter of the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, Syphilis and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the Region. Guyana is hopeful that our country will be declared as ending transmission of HIV from mother to child in 2024.

We regret the untimely passing of Dr Etienne at the tender age of 71. Guyana has lost a true friend, but our systems are stronger because of the passion and commitment of Dr. Carissa Etienne. The Minister of Health expresses his loss of a friend who has stood by him since he assumed his position as Minister in August 2020. The Minister expresses his gratitude for Dr. Etienne’s support particularly during the crucial period when COVID-19 was ravaging the region.