(Ben Green) #1


in, Tedros’ job hasn’t gotten much easier. Ebola
is back again, this time in the Congo. Skepticism
of vaccines is proliferating, primarily in West-
ern countries, and contributing to a resurgence
of preventable illnesses like measles. Climate
change is threatening human health at every
level. And— despite drastic improvements over
the past few decades—the global health commu-
nity still struggles to protect vulnerable groups,
like young children and women in childbirth. The
WHO itself has drawn criticism from some in the
public-health world, who have spoken out against
its perceived organizational inefciencies and
overspending. Tedros also made headlines when
he appointed Zimbabwe’s authoritarian leader
Robert Mugabe a WHO goodwill ambassador in
2017, a decision Tedros eventually reversed.
Tedros remains preternaturally calm in the face
of all of this, pouring his energy into work and
shrugging off suggestions that perhaps he should
take a break sometimes. (When he does get a rare
free moment, he says he spends time with his
wife and five children back in Ethiopia or reads

leadership and management books.) He remains
committed to a dizzying array of projects at the
WHO, from eliminating cervical cancer globally to
removing trans fats from the world’s food supply,
and sees global health problems that are almost
mind-bogglingly daunting in scope not as obsta-
cles, but as the reason for playing the game.
These challenges are never far from Tedros’
mind. When we meet on a cloudless Sunday morn-
ing to stroll Central Park, the morning after our
first introduction, he looks like he’s off-duty in
sweatpants, sneakers and a bright blue Walk The
Talk T-shirt, a nod to a fitness challenge spon-
sored by the WHO. But after just a few minutes
of conversation, it’s clear that, at least mentally,
Tedros never takes it easy.
“I like traveling to rural areas. I like to see real
people. I like to see the problem. You can’t see
it from here,” Tedros says, gesturing at the park,
bathed in cinematic, early-fall light. “Many people
say they’re motivated by a positive thing. But me,
what wakes me in the morning is the problem that
has to be addressed. So I push on.” □

‘I didn’t
it; I don’t
accept it
even now.’
on the death
of his brother in
childhood from
a preventable


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