Press Release

Ministry of Health & Social Development
Release Date:
Friday, 1 December 2023 - 5:24pm

Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley has extended condolences on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands on the passing of Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director Emeritus and former Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  

Honourable Wheatley said Dr. Etienne who was also former Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has left an indelible mark in the area of global and regional public health, and that her career is worthy of emulation.

Honourable Whealtey said, “Dr. Etienne was a public health expert who made a significant impact in the public health landscape regionally and internationally.  We here in the VI also benefitted tremendously from her vision, leadership and drive to advance public health in the Americas.”

Dr. Etienne’s accomplishments included the advancement of Universal Health as particularly to provide equity for vulnerable, rural, and underserved populations.

She also worked towards improving governance and stewardship in health, financing for health, and intersectoral action to address the social determinants of health.  Dr. Etienne led the organisation’s drive towards eliminating diseases like HIV, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, Chagas, and others, and mobilised programmes to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.

“We have lost a visionary, pioneer, and stalwart in the area of public health. As we reflect on her significant contributions and her life’s work, we will be forever grateful and appreciative for the commitment, love and respect that she had for her Caribbean counterparts.  May her Soul Rest in Peace,” Honourable Whealtey said.

According to a press release issued by PAHO, Dr. Etienne died early this morning at her home in Maryland USA.  She began her career in her native Dominica as a medical officer at the Princess Margaret Hospital and was later appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of that country. She has also served in other high-level posts in Dominica, including as Director of Primary Health Care Services, Coordinator of the National AIDS Program and Disaster Coordinator for the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Etienne received her medical degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery-MBBS) from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and her Master of Science Degree (MSc) in Community Health in Developing Countries from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London.


Natasha Lettsome-Humphrey

Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
Telephone: 468-2286