Neglected tropical diseases

WHO appoints new Director for the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

23 January 2014 | Geneva
Dr Dirk Engels, NTD Director as of 1 May 2014

Dr Dirk Engels has been appointed as the new Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) with effect from 1 May 2014 when its incumbent Dr Lorenzo Savioli retires after 23 years of dedicated service, including 9 years as Director NTD.

“I am confident that Dr Engels’ long commitment to and experience with control of neglected tropical diseases will lead to achievement of the WHO Roadmap’s targets” said Dr Hiroki Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General .

Dr Engels, a Belgian national, is currently Coordinator of the Preventive Chemotherapy and Transmission Control unit of the Department and is very familiar with the burden of neglected tropical diseases. He has provided clear strategic and technical direction for interventions relating to the control and elimination of 9 of the 17 neglected tropical diseases.

“Dr Engels is fully aware of the challenges in overcoming neglected tropical diseases” said Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “His appointment as Director means a continuation of the excellent work accomplished over the past decade and an expansion of the global community of partners and stakeholders.”

“His appointment as Director means a continuation of the excellent work accomplished over the past decade and an expansion of the global community of partners and stakeholders.”

Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

Dr Engels has represented WHO in many international fora and led senior delegations to negotiate with agencies and donors for resources to fund the Department’s activities.

His priorities include promoting the role of the Department with a strong focus on its human capital, continued staff training and preparing to meet future challenges.

Early career

Dr Engels studied medicine at the University of Antwerp and graduated in 1979. He further holds diplomas in tropical medicine and epidemiology, a Masters in Health Services Research from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a PhD in parasitology from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

During the first 15 years of his professional career he successively worked in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Rwanda and Senegal, in clinical tropical medicine, public health and tropical disease control, mostly serving people in poor rural settings.

WHO

In 1998 he joined WHO as a Medical Officer and in 2005 became Coordinator of the Preventive Chemotherapy and Transmission Control Unit of the NTD Department.

Dr Engels was part of a small team of experts who contributed to developing a clear and comprehensive strategy for the integrated control of ‘neglected tropical diseases’. After the creation of the NTD Department and for almost nine years he led a team of professionals in producing and disseminating norms and standards for the implementation of integrated large-scale preventive treatment interventions for the control or elimination of multiple tropical diseases. This resulted in one of the largest global public health interventions to date, with over 700 million people benefitting annually from preventive chemotherapy treatment worldwide.

Dr Engels has revitalized and overhauled WHO’s Dracunculiasis Eradication Programme, emphasizing surveillance and prompt reporting of cases. Today, the disease is on the verge of eradication.

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