In brief

Some more new faces at SPC and WHO

SPC Communicable Disease Surveillance Specialist
Dr Justus Benzler arrived at the beginning of May 2006 to take over the position of Communicable Disease Surveillance Specialist from Dr Narendra Singh. Dr Benzler arrives from Germany, where he was working in the area of communicable disease surveillance at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, specifically taking care of the German national reporting system for notifiable infectious diseases. Before that he worked in several African countries as a district medical officer and helped to set up demographic and health information systems. While he has spent many years in different environments contributing to improving the collection of high-quality data related to populations and their health and making it conveniently available for decision-makers, he has never worked in the Pacific region. Dr Benzler looks forward to this new experience and to collaborating with the other PPHSN members.

New WHO regional advisor for communicable diseases
Dr Takeshi Kasai has recently been appointed as the Regional Advisor for Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response (CSR) at the WHO-WPRO regional office in Manila. He succeeds Dr Hitoshi Oshitani, who was in the position for six years. Dr Kasai graduated as a medical doctor from the Keio University School of Medicine in Japan in 1990. He has a Master of Science degree in Public Health in Developing Countries and a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, both from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr Kasai has previously worked with WHO as Medical Officer in Tuberculosis at the regional office from 2000 to 2003. His other experience includes working at the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as Infectious Diseases Advisor, and later as Director of the Office for WHO at the International Affairs Division of the ministry. In addition, he was Deputy Director-General of the Welfare and Health Bureau of the Miyazaki Prefectural Government in Japan. In his new position as regional advisor, Dr Kasai will coordinate WHO’s activities in countries in Asia and the Pacific with regard to infectious diseases, including the problem of H5N1 avian influenza, the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) and any new emerging infectious disease threats.

New medical officer for communicable diseases in the Pacific at the WHO Suva office
Dr Jacob Kool was recently appointed as the long-term Medical Officer for Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response at WHO’s office in Suva, filling the position that Dr Mike O’Leary occupied for many years. Dr Kool is a citizen of the Netherlands. He obtained his medical degree in 1990 from the University of Utrecht, a Certificate in Tropical Medicine from the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute and a PhD in Medical Epidemiology from the University of Amsterdam. Like his predecessor, Dr Kool trained in the Epidemic Intelligence Service programme at CDC in America. He has occupied positions in several countries, working on tropical medicine, surveillance and outbreak investigation. He worked at the WHO regional office in Manila from 1993 to 1995 in the Expanded Programme on Immunization. In his current position, Dr Kool will assist and advise Pacific countries with their infectious disease surveillance, prevention and outbreak investigations. This will include influenza pandemic preparedness and the new International Health Regulations. He expects to work closely with the national EpiNet teams and with SPC.