Final selection soon: AUB alumna, Dr. Rana Hajjeh, for WHO Regional Director

​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, ss152@aub.edu.lb

Dr. Rana Hajjeh (BS ’84, MD ’88) has been nominated as a final candidate for the post of regional director for the Eastern ​Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) of the World Health Organization (WHO). A special session will be held on May 19 where member states will nominate the new regional director.

Hajjeh is a senior public health leader and an advocate for strong public health capacity in the region.  She is currently the director of the Department of Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control at WHO-EMRO and has extensive experience in global health, and health policy and diplomacy, especially in the Middle East region. 

An expert in the region’s health needs and with broad health diplomacy skills working with ministries of health and governments in the Middle East and globally, Hajjeh has played a major role in supporting emergency response in the region, and in accelerating the agenda for the prevention and control of vaccine preventable diseases, HIV, hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, and antimicrobial resistance. 

Before joining WHO, she worked for 23 years with the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the premier public health agency in the world, holding many senior positions and working extensively in the Middle East. 

Between 1996 and 2016, Hajjeh led many responses to major epidemics across the world, including meningitis during Hajj in Saudi Arabia in 2000, cholera in Haiti in 2010, and recently MERS coronavirus in Saudi Arabia and Ebola in West Africa. She has considerable experience in health policies and supported development of various global policies for the prevention of infectious diseases, such as for new vaccines and strategies for building laboratory and surveillance systems. Throughout her career, she managed increasingly complex departments and initiatives with large budgets. 

She has received many awards, including the prestigious Federal Employee of the Year Award in 2014 for her global vaccine work. Hajjeh has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, serves as a reviewer for multiple journals, and holds professor positions in medicine and public health at Emory and Johns Hopkins universities. A dedicated partner of AUB through projects, lectures, and close collaborations with AUBMC and AUB’s Faculty of Health Sciences in support of public health policies and strategies, she was honored in 2015 with the Distinguished AUB Alumni Award.

Hajjeh has been officially nominated for the post of regional director by the Lebanese Republic as “an outstanding figure, well-known for her tireless work, expertise, and humanitarian action in all the positions she held.” 

“Our region is suffering from considerable health crises and problems and is in dire need of the expertise and efforts of Dr. Hajjeh,” stated the nomination.

On May 19, a spe​cial session of the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, for the sole purpose of nominating a new regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean. Eight candidates have been nominated from the region. Pending an election process by member state representatives, the region’s WHO representative is selected.

"My vision is to have a healthier and safer region, where everyone has the right to have a healthy and productive life, where strong health systems are built and countries are prepared to deal with all crises,” said Hajjeh. “At a very difficult time when our region is facing many conflicts and emergencies that have weakened our health systems and put us at risk for many health crises, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office needs a strong, experienced, and credible public health leader to help in guiding the region, assisting our countries in reaching their health sustainable development goals, and ensuring adequate health coverage for every child, woman, and man."

After 25 years of demonstrated leadership, experience, and career dedication to public health, the American University of Beirut is confident that Dr. Hajjeh is a suitable candidate to uphold the region’s health needs through this leadership post for public health in the region. A parallel vision and endorsement by the region’s state representatives is sure to lead us to a sustainable, healthier region.