The election of Dr. Margaret Chan as the Director-General of WHO in November 2006 marks the first time that a Chinese national has headed a United Nations agency. The 60-year-old woman is known to mainland people for her solid professional background, strong leadership and tremendous experience in public health, for which the Chinese Central Government nominated her and supported her bid.
The former Hong Kong health chief joined the WHO in 2003, and she had been the UN agency's Assistant Director-General for communicable diseases before announcing her campaign for the top post of director-general in July 2006.
As health chief of Hong Kong in 1997, Chan was credited with successfully tackling the first known outbreak of the virulent H5N1 strain of avian influenza by ordering a swift and massive cull of chickens, despite strong opposition to the move.
Chan has stated that her five-year term starting from January 2007 will focus on the health of Africans and women.