On 28 July 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Dr. Natalia Kanem, of Panama, as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme) of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than 25 years of strategic leadership experience in the fields of medicine, public and reproductive health, peace, social justice, and philanthropy. She started her career in academia with the Johns Hopkins and Columbia University schools of medicine and public health. While a Ford Foundation officer from 1992 to 2005, she funded pioneering work in women’s reproductive health and sexuality as the Foundation’s representative for West Africa. She then served in the Foundation’s headquarters, becoming Deputy Vice-President for its worldwide peace and social justice programmes across offices in the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Dr. Kanem served as founding president of the ELMA Philanthropies Inc., a private institution focusing primarily on children and youth in Africa, since the institution’s inception until 2011. From 2012 to 2013, she was a senior associate of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies, which is dedicated to the development of the Caribbean. Since 2014, Dr. Kanem has been serving as UNFPA Representative in Tanzania.
Dr. Kanem holds a medical degree from Columbia University in New York and a Master’s in Public Health, with specialization in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, from the University of Washington in Seattle. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University in History and Science.