Dr Sania Nishtar, a physician cardiologist from Peshawar, is among the three finalists in the running to become the next Director General (DG) of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Breaking glass ceilings for the women of our country, Dr Nishtar has collected many accolades over the span of her illustrious career – acknowledged for her transformational leadership in the health sector, she has been named the top 20 women scientists in the Muslim world in 2014 and received the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2005. She is also the founder of the globally recognised NGO Heartfile, considered the prevailing voice in health legislation of Pakistan and financing initiatives to support Universal Health Coverage in mixed health systems.

She served as federal minister in the caretaker government in 2003, where she left her mark in re-establishing Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, authoring Pakistan’s first compendium of health statistics and the country’s first national public health plan for Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases and Health Promotion. Considering that the world is grappling with the outbreak of dangerous new diseases like the Zika Virus, her experience in this aspect has contributed to her becoming the top candidate for the WHO leader. As per latest updates she is leading the race securing 28 votes out of 34. The World Health Assembly (WHA) is set to meet in May 2017, where 196 member states will vote for the next DG WHO.

Setting aside her endless accomplishments, her ten-point agenda of bringing reform to the flailing WHO is what has put her in the lead. She has vowed to make electoral campaign financing a matter of public record and scrutiny, focusing on accountability through all processes of the organisation. She has reiterated her focus on improving and coordinating the response to disease outbreak and supporting all member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while supporting adaptation to mitigate the effects of climate change by capitalising on co-benefits of action for health.