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PAHO director receives honorary doctorate from Fiocruz


Ana Paula Blower (Fiocruz News Agency)


In a morning of tributes, acknowledgments and commitments to public health, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Jarbas Barbosa, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Fiocruz by the Foundation's president, Mario Moreira. The sanitarian, a graduate of the Sergio Arouca National School of Public Health (Ensp/Fiocruz), is the seventh person to receive the most important title awarded by Fiocruz to those who work to improve the lives of the population. In his speech at the ceremony held on Friday (12/8), Barbosa thanked the Foundation for the honor, recalled his trajectory marked by a strong relationship with the Foundation, highlighted PAHO actions and global health challenges, such as pandemic preparedness, and reinforced his commitment to reducing inequities in the access to health services in the region.

Jarbas Barbosa  is the seventh person to receive the most important title awarded by Fiocruz to those who work to improve the lives of the population (photo: Peter Ilicciev)

"My history with Fiocruz began in the 1980s, at Ensp/Fiocruz to train health workers from all over the country. Then, I majored in epidemiology and, thereafter, I discovered that public health was my calling. Moreover, we had several moments to establish a strategic partnership in strengthening the single health system in Brazil," said Barbosa, who also thanked the colleagues he worked with: "Each one has team experiences, which, with their commitment, respond to challenges to build universal health."

Barbosa said he was honored by the title, highlighted the Foundation's role in the country and the region and the partnerships established throughout his career: "Fiocruz is one of the most recognized public health institutions in the world, it has a technical leadership role in several areas, such as in basic research, in the production of medicines and vaccines. I think (the title) further strengthens my ties with the institution" he stated.

The PAHO director cited two recent examples of this partnership between Fiocruz and his trajectory at PAHO, as well as the work of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centers: the Foundation as a platform for the first Sars-CoV-2 detection training for professionals in South America, and the mRNA vaccine project in which Fiocruz was selected, and which is one of the most advanced today. "An example of the seriousness, commitment and quality of this institution," he said.

The ceremony was attended by authorities from PAHO and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, among other institutions (photo: Peter Ilicciev)

Fiocruz's President Mario Moreira emphasized the importance of the honor and highlighted Barbosa's trajectory in public health in the country, the region and the world. "Jarbas joins a select group of seven who have been honored with this, the highest honor awarded by Fiocruz to anyone whose career has been aimed at improving the living conditions and health of the Brazilian population," said Moreira. "You embody this figure, the profile of a public health specialist who understands public health from a local and national perspective and, by going to PAHO, you are putting all your technical and intellectual capacity in favor of health in the region."

Moreira explained that the title awarded this Friday is part of a moment in which Fiocruz is seeking to re-establish the concept of honors – the last award was given in 2019. "Now, as a doctor of this institution, Jarbas, you help us in our institutional development, and you will always be a distinguished advisor to this institution, committed to the purposes of the Pan American Health Organization."

Representing Fiocruz's Decision-Making Body at the ceremony, the director of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz), Tania Araújo Jorge, presented Barbosa's trajectory, highlighting his work to reduce inequalities, his distinguished national and international career and his role in the COVID-19 pandemic, leading efforts to tackle the crisis, such as the launch of a platform to expand the production of mRNA vaccines in the Americas.

The Manguinhos Ballet, from a neighboring community, performed during the ceremony (photo: Peter Iliciev)

The ceremony was attended by authorities from PAHO, such as the organization's representative in Brazil, Socorro Gross, from the Ministry of Health, such as the director of the Department of Communicable Diseases of the Secretariat of Health and Environmental Surveillance, Alda Maria da Cruz, and representatives of the Ministry of Institutional Relations, Abrasco, DNDi, the National Health Council, PUC-Rio, among others. The former presidents of Fiocruz, Paulo Buss and Paulo Gadelha, also took part in the event.

At the end of the tribute, there was a performance by the Manguinhos Ballet, which did a number in homage to the frevo of Pernambuco, Jarbas Barbosa's home state.


In his speech, Jarbas Barbosa emphasized how the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a need to reposition public health in Latin America, to reflect on what needs to be done to build more resilient health systems, with strengthened primary care, capable of health promotion and integrating surveillance and prevention. He also addressed the issue of preparedness for other pandemics, highlighting the importance of mobilizing resources and the new pandemic agreement. "If we fail to solve equitable access to medicines and vaccines, it is as if we haven't learned from the 3 million people who died in the Americas during this pandemic," he emphasized.


Jarbas Barbosa, Doctor of Public Health from the University of Campinas (Unicamp) and specialized in Public Health and Epidemiology from Ensp/Fiocruz, joined PAHO in 2007. Before being elected director in September last year, he was president of the Executive Committee, vice-president of the Executive Board and deputy director of the organization, leading actions such as the task force for vaccination against COVID-19 in the Americas. 

Barbosa also had important stints at the Ministry of Health. He was CEO of the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) from 2015 to 2018 and secretary of Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs in 2015; twice secretary of Health Surveillance, from 2003 to 2006 and 2011 to 2015; executive secretary, from 2006 to 2007; and director of the National Epidemiology Center (Cenepi), from 1997 to 2003. He has also worked as State Health secretary in Pernambuco and as a professor at the University of Pernambuco (UPE). 

Seven recipients of the title

The title of honorary doctor of Fiocruz is awarded to national or international personalities who have made an outstanding contribution to humanity, and the country or who have rendered relevant services to Fiocruz. Jarbas Barbosa was the seventh to receive this title, a unanimous decision by the Decision-Making Body in June this year. The first recipient was President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 2004.

In addition to Lula and Jarbas Barbosa, the following were awarded the title: Ciro de Quadros, Giovanni Berlinguer, Hésio Cordeiro, Maria Isabel Rodrigues and Paulo Ferrinho

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