Kitty van Weezenbeek has said goodbye as executive director of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation. After having held this position for seven years, she continues her impressive career as Director of Surveillance, Prevention and Control of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Van Weezenbeek: “I think it is fantastic that I can now continue with over 30 years of experience in the fight against (multi)drug-resistant tuberculosis in the broader context of antibiotic resistance: this concerns us all, both poor(er) and rich countries!”
Van Weezenbeek started her career as a tuberculosis doctor in the Netherlands and specialized in drug-resistant tuberculosis. Of the 10 million people affected by TB every year, half a million people fall ill with a resistant form. Van Weezenbeeks international knowledge and experience in this field, as well as her many years of participation in relevant international consultative bodies, are of great importance in her new position at WHO.
The field of antimicrobial resistance is much broader, covering human health, agriculture and animal husbandry, amongst others. Van Weezenbeek: “My main goal is to contribute globally to the surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of AMR and to assist countries in the development and implementation of national AMR action plans. Research is essential here: measuring is knowing. A lot has to be done in all areas and I see that as a great challenge.”
A move from The Netherlands to Switzerland also formed a challenge during this time of COVID-19, but at the 31st of May she will move to Geneva. Due to corona measurements, she could neither say goodbye in person to her colleagues at KNCV, who earlier this month sounded the alarm because of the impact of COVID-19 on TB control. Even more TB patients are expected to die because of the direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19. Van Weezenbeek: “Support for the fight against TB remains as important as ever, especially at a time when healthcare is being burdened and undermined globally by COVID-19. I hope that all COVID-19 support indirectly also benefits the less visible but much more deadly TB epidemic.”
Mustapha Gidado Interim Executive Director
KNCV works in 11 countries and is the international expert organization in the fight against TB. Mustapha Gidado succeeds Van Weezenbeek as Interim Executive Director and under his leadership the organization stays committed to the fight against TB and to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on TB. KNCV will continue to support all the efforts of stakeholders in the COVID-19 pandemic response by sharing relevant TB experience and expertise in areas of contact investigation, infection prevention and control, and stigma reduction measures. Gidado: “It is time to leverage resources and expertise from both diseases and never forget the vulnerable groups.”
Gidado was previously the director of the KNCV-led and USAID-funded Challenge TB project (2015 – 2020), which contributed significantly to strengthening TB programs and services including capacity building for national and local organizations for optimal implementation and scale-up of appropriate TB interventions. Gidado: “I am honored to continue Kitty’s work. I admire her leadership and her combativeness in accomplishing KNCVs mission: a world free of TB. She has inspired many in TB control and I am sure she will do the same in AMR. Personally and on behalf of KNCV I wish her success in her new position.”