• WHO DG election: selected media coverage about Sania Nishtar

Government of Pakistan’s brief about Sania Nishtar while announcing her candidacy in 2016 

Dr. Sania Nishtar’s wide-ranging experience which qualified her as a candidate

Dr. Sania Nishtar, is best known for her bold and transformational leadership in health, is a prominent candidate for Director-General of the World Health Organization. A combination of high-level experience in government, civil society and in multilateral institutions, as well as her background as a physician, scientist and thought leader on public health, uniquely position her to drive the reform of the WHO, ensuring its fitness to deal with the health challenges of the 21st century. In every role she has taken on, her defining feature has been her ability to deliver results with high integrity. Her skills and experience range across institution-building, public policy, research, advocacy and service delivery and would make her one of the most qualified Director-Generals in the history of the WHO. She is the leader that the world needs to take the helm at WHO.

Founder of Institutions 

Dr. Nishtar has built organizations from scratch—the globally recognized NGO Heartfile, a powerful and respected health policy voice in Pakistan, and Heartfile Health Financing, an access-to-treatment initiative to support Universal Health Coverage in mixed health systems. She is a proven effective leader who delivers quality results. Dr. Nishtar is the recipient of the Global Innovation Award for her ability to think laterally, incubate and take to scale fresh ideas, build partnerships, exploit synergies for systems building and create impact.

Minister, Government of Pakistan

Dr. Nishtar served as Federal Minister in the 2013 caretaker government of Pakistan with responsibility for Health, Science and Technology, Information Technology, and Higher Education. As minister, she espoused the widely acclaimed accountability and transparency approach to working with the government. During her term, she was instrumental in re-establishing Pakistan’s Ministry of Health. She has extensive public-sector experience as member/chair of national commissions, public sector boards, restructuring committees, and reform task forces.

Civil Society Trailblazer

Dr. Nishtar has strong civil society credentials as founder of civil society institutions, as a health policy voice demanding improved governance, and as a member of boards of many INGOs. She has received Pakistan’s Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Presidential award) for her contributions.

Leader in the Multilateral System

Dr. Nishtar has wide experience in global health in the multilateral system. She is currently Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and is co-Chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. She has served on many international expert panels and is well-known for her leadership and consensus-building in global health.


Physician Scientist

As a physician cardiologist, Dr. Nishtar has experience working in difficult health systems settings. She has strong research credentials and was the principal investigator of the first case control study in Pakistan. She became an advocate for disease prevention and health promotion earlier on in her career, when she used her study findings to develop public awareness campaigns.



Dr. Nishtar is widely published in peer reviewed journals and is the author of six books. Her latest book, Choked Pipes is used as a post-graduate text book and a reference guide. It is the subject of a documentary by an award-winning filmmaker. She has led the Pakistan Lancet Series on health reform and is the author of Pakistan’s first compendium of health statistics and the country’s first national public health plan for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion.

Thought leader

Dr. Nishtar has deeply engaged in the international discourse on health and development as a thought leader and has attended over 200 major international conferences, consultations, and policy fora over the last 15 years as invited expert, chair, resource person, and keynote speaker.