The World Health Organization (WHO) officially included Dr. Susan Mercado, a Filipino public health specialist, in its list of nominees for the WHO-Western Pacific regional director position.

The Philippines nominated Mercado, who is also the Special Envoy for Global Health Initiatives, to the office’s top position.

She is one of the four nominees listed, the three others were from Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand.

The election for the new Western Pacific Director will be done during the WHO’s Regional Consultative Meetings of the Western Pacific in Manila in October 2018.

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), welcomed her inclusion in the list of nominees.

“The acceptance of Dr. Susan P. Mercado’s nomination by the WHO is proof of her expertise and experience in the field of public health, which was evident when President Rodrigo Duterte appointed her as Special Envoy this year,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said. “We wish her all the best in her candidature.”

Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Evan Garcia also expressed hope on Mercado’s bid for the post.

“The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva shares the excitement of Dr. Mercado in the campaign process, and hopes that the next Western Pacific Regional Director of WHO will come from the Philippines,” he said.

Mercado was an Undersecretary and Chief of Staff of the Department of Health, and has served the WHO for more than 15 years.

As Manila’s candidate, Mercado said she is advocating on a platform of responsiveness and empowerment. “I believe that being approachable and accessible is the key to effective leadership. You cannot lead if you cannot listen.”

“I believe that the foundation for leadership in a multilateral agency is respecting that each member state—regardless of size or socio-economic status has the authority to identify its own priorities and chart its own destiny,” she added.

Mercado worked at WHO’s Regional Office for Western Pacific (WPRO) as Director for Noncommunicable Diseases and Health through the Life-Course, where she led teams of international public health experts who work closely with governments in 37 countries and areas across Asia and the Pacific.

According to the DFA, she also acted as WPRO Regional Adviser for Health Promotion, as well as team leader of the WPRO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.

She also served as team leader for Urban Health Equity of the WHO Kobe Center in Japan.

According to Mercado, the organization can do better by creating new spaces in public health discourse and governance where member states can discuss how to optimize and share resources in ways that are culturally appropriate and sensitive to local contexts.

“There are multiple solutions to the health problems we face, and more of our time and attention should go to linking solutions to problems through inclusive dialogue and engagement,” she said.

“I believe there is a straightforward, efficient and, ultimately, simple approach: We must do it together, and we must do it today,” Mercado added.