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Dean of Charité becomes new World Health Summit President


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The Summit’s Founding President Prof. Dr. Detlev Ganten steps down after 12 years

On 1 January 2021, the World Health Summit, one of the world’s leading conferences on global health, gained a new president: Prof. Dr. Axel Radlach Pries, Dean and Member of the Executive Board of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. He succeeds Prof. Dr. Detlev Ganten who, as Charité’s erstwhile Chief Executive Officer, founded the World Health Summit in 2009 on the occasion of Charité’s 300th anniversary.

Prof. Ganten and Prof. Pries in Geneva, 2016. Photo: private collection.

The World Health Summit is one of Charité’s most successful initiatives. “The conference’s outstanding content not only enhances the international reach and reputation of Berlin’s academic medicine sector, it also holds enormous significance for the field of global health, an area where Germany is growing its role and relevance,” says Prof. Pries. He adds: “We are proud to be able to call it one of the largest health conferences in the world.” The Dean is pleased that the World Health Summit increases Charité’s international visibility, highlighting a long tradition of research in the field of global health: “I therefore look forward to my responsibilities as President of this international forum for global health. Prof. Ganten will continue to support the WHS in an advisory capacity. I am grateful for his visionary leadership and commitment, for which I would like to thank him on behalf of Charité.”

A physician and physiologist, Prof. Dr. Axel Radlach Pries headed Charité’s Institute of Physiology before being appointed to the position of Dean in 2015. Originally from Cologne, Prof. Pries was employed as Professor of Physiology at Freie Universität Berlin and Senior Physician for Anesthesiology at the German Heart Center Berlin before moving to Charité. As the Dean of Charité, Prof. Pries has had a major role in transforming teaching and learning, including in the implementation of the New Revised Medical Curriculum (Modellstudiengang Medizin) and the introduction of new degree options, such as in Public Health.

“I am pleased that Axel Radlach Pries has agreed to take on the role of President of the World Health Summit in addition to his work as an internationally renowned scientist in cardiovascular research and as Dean of Charité. This creates a good foundation on which to build efforts to further enhance the World Health Summit’s already excellent reputation as a forum for global health,” says Prof. Ganten, who will retain close links with the World Health Summit in his new role as Chair of the Board of Trustees of WHS Foundation GmbH. One of the world’s leading scientists in the field of cardiovascular diseases, Prof. Ganten was President of the World Health Summit Founding Director until the end of 2020. Previous roles have included Founding Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin Buch, Chief Executive Officer of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, President of the Helmholtz Association and Member of the German Ethics Council.

Dr. Jörg Heldmann is Managing Director of WHS Foundation GmbH and therefore of the World Health Summit: “In many respects, the World Health Summit has played a pioneering role in promoting and shaping the subject of global health in Germany. Part of the high level of trust our partners place in us, however, is thanks to the authenticity of both Charité and the M8 Alliance with their combined focus on patient care, research and teaching in the interest of public health. The transfer of the presidency to Axel R. Pries will reinforce this, linking large numbers of global health-relevant activities in a synergistic manner.”

The academic backbone of the World Health Summit is the M8 Alliance, a growing network of academic health centers, universities, and national academies whose membership currently comprises 30 research institutions from 20 countries. The M8 Alliance was founded in 2009 (under the leadership of Charité) to coincide with the first World Health Summit. The International Presidency of the World Health Summit rotates annually among members of the M8 Alliance. The annual conference in Berlin is complemented by Regional Meetings, which are held in M8 Alliance member countries. The next Regional Meeting is scheduled to be held in late June 2021 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The 13th World Health Summit will take place between 24 and 26 October 2021 in Berlin.

World Health Summit

The organization behind the World Health Summit is WHS Foundation GmbH, a subsidiary of Charité. Charité is represented by its Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dr. Heyo Kroemer. Since its foundation in 2009, the World Health Summit has grown into one of the world’s foremost strategic forums for global health. Traditionally held under the patronage of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (Angela Merkel), the President of the French Republic (Emmanuel Macron), the President of the European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen) and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus), the World Health Summit brings together representatives from the fields of science, politics, business and civil society.

Every year, the World Health Summit in Berlin attracts approximately 300 speakers and 2,500 delegates from around 100 countries. The event’s 50 sessions cover a range of topics, including strategies for improving global disease prevention and health care, digitalization, climate change and health, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Summit 2020 was held as a purely digital event, which attracted close to 6,000 live stream participants. The pandemic was also the focus of the conference’s opening speech, which was delivered by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.