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Home  >  News
PAHO Director says Farewell
Friday, January 25, 2013

The following is a speech by Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, Director of the Pan American Health Organization at the Ministry of Health, 3rd Floor Conference Room on the occasion of her farewell:

"As I mentioned in my speech just two days ago to the executive board in Geneva, even 3 decades of international public health service cannot prepare anyone for such a generous farewell exactly in the place that I started. I am really going full forward with the authorities and the people of Trinidad and Tobago that have welcomed me and that have received me in many occasions along these 29 years.

L-R: Permanent Secretary Antonia Popplewell, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, Outgoing PAHO Director Dr Mirta Roses-Periago, Argentina Ambassador Marcelo Salviolo, PAHO Country Representative Dr Bernadete Theodore-Gandi

I have always done by best to fulfill the duties and responsibilities bestowed upon me by you and also the rest of the countries of the Americas. We have fought many battles in the pursuit of the health for all dreams and for this incredible honor I want to thank you all. As director I have already presented by reports for the two five year terms that I have served the region from 2003 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2012 and I have tried all the time to be guided by the powerful principles of cooperation, solidarity, equity, transparency, the best available evidence and accountability to provide the foundation for the decision making processes in all aspects of my work. As you all know, the regional and global health architecture has become increasingly complex and new partnerships and networks have been created but at the same time the organization that I am currently leading has been also instrumented with the right mandates, the legal and the universal and equal participation of all countries and this particular quality has provided the basis that are unique to the organization to be able to be both credible and capable of delivering norms and a standard and to be an honest broker on policy advice.
Many examples of that have been mentioned by the Minister. New alliances and networks continue to be created because we need them to respond to the challenges in battling health. There are examples here from the Caribbean like PANCAP in the time of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the wellness revolution more recently to respond to the non-communicable chronic diseases that have been ways to responding from the countries and the governments to this increased forging of alliances that are so much needed to be able to respond to the major public health problems that we face. Some of them have come after success like the control of communicable diseases have created enormous possibilities for the people to age in a healthy way but at the same time changing patterns in behavior particularly consumption patterns have created a new challenge with non-communicable diseases.

Health Minister Dr. Fuad Khan presents one of the gifts of appreciation for her sterling service to Dr Mirta Roses-Periago

The unity and diversity is one of the basic principles of the universe. Diversity is, as the Caribbean knows very well an asset for survival, creativity and innovation. On these principles, PAHO was created 110 years ago. The founding fathers at that time had the boldness to create a very distinct organization and this was long before the United Nations and many of the other organizations that have been created afterwards. One particular thing is the fact that this organization has been capable of defining common goals and at the same time recognizing the wide differences in health and well-being among the countries. It has been able to work closer to the people and with the people and having been able to mobilize energy and commitment of their own population. This is because they committed to promoting engagements, ownership, chairing of knowledge and resources, capacity building, autonomy and sovereignty. They came together but also they respect each other’s differences.

I am proud to have implemented the decisions of the working group of PAHO on the 21st century by being chaired by CARICOM member states, through Barbados and Dr. Walcott, but I think that there have been many recommendations from the member state when I took office on institutionalized strengthening. A lot of new things have been created to make the organization stronger, even if it is an old institution which is proof that things can innovate and maintain relevance. We have a very unique regional budget policy; Mr. O’Brian has been part of that. Many of the things that we have been trying to help the countries to achieve have become global standards. I took an example of the wellness day in the Caribbean and now we have a wellness week all over the region as well as globally.

Dr. Mirta Roses Receives one of her gifts of appreciation for her sterling service from the Argentina Ambassador His Excellency Marcelo Salviolo

I think that the commitments on fighting stigma and discrimination for instance which a lot of passion was put into that from the Caribbean countries. The need to define priority population from vulnerable groups and not only priority health topics so that we can recognize really that the changes we need are really on peoples’ live and not only  on the statistics. We have also commemorated member states after the quake in Haiti and the introduction cholera into the region and in the first time in history, were opportunities that were put to the test to the capacity of the organization to have that leadership but also the commitment of the member states to reaffirm their willingness to share information in a transparent way and also to share their resources to come and help.

I feel extremely privileged to have been given the honor to work for the organization and the countries for 29 years. I have had extraordinary mentors, colleagues and peers. I have learned all from the media and how you harness information from technology and the media outreach to pass the message, to change people’s life in a positive way. I am really grateful that life has given me in my career, to witness eradication of diseases from the region. I am old enough to have seen smallpox which many of you have not, and luckily have not been able to see any. I think this is a process of the phoenix birth where you come back again with new feathers and new features to be able to continue serving to the best possible needs of the countries.

To me it has been quite an exciting journey. I plan to come back to Trinidad often as a tourist. I would suggest that of an honorary citizen since I have learned a lot. I think I was fortunate that I could pack very early in my career and the fruits and the sounds of the Caribbean in Trinidad to be able to accompany me and keep the good humor and the good temper and learn patience and also tolerance that are powerful tools to allow you to pass through these testing moments that we have also lived in our region.

To all you friends that are here today, those who are not here today, a big thank you to you and the Caribbean people and to the leaders for allowing me to learn from your needs, from you expectations, from your sufferings and from your dreams."

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