In a notable recognition of her outstanding contributions to public healthcare services in Bhutan, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia, has been honored with Bhutan’s National Order of Merit (NOM) Gold Medal. The prestigious award was presented by Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Druk Gyalpo (dragon king) of Bhutan, during the celebration of Bhutan’s 116th National Day on December 17, 2023, in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Significant Contribution to Public Healthcare
Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, played a pivotal role as the WHO Regional Director in supporting transformative healthcare leadership in Bhutan. Her efforts were instrumental in Bhutan achieving significant milestones in public health, notably becoming one of the first countries to eliminate measles in 2017 and rubella in 2023, ahead of schedule.
Dr. Khetrapal Singh, a member of the 1975 batch of the Punjab cadre, boasts a distinguished career. She served as the Secretary of Health and Family Welfare, Managing Director of Punjab Financial Corporation, and Punjab Industrial Development Corporation in Punjab. Her international contributions include positions at The World Bank and, later, at the WHO headquarters, where she served as the Executive Director of Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments Cluster.
WHO Regional Director and Re-election
In 2014, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh made history by becoming the first Indian and the first woman to be elected as the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia. In 2019, she was re-elected to the post for another 5-year term. Her tenure witnessed transformative healthcare initiatives and significant strides in disease elimination in the region.
Bhutan’s National Order of Merit (NOM)
The National Order of Merit, instituted in 2008 by King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is a prestigious recognition for distinguished and meritorious services to Bhutan. The award is presented in three classes: First Class (Gold), Second Class (Silver), and Third Class (Bronze). Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh’s acknowledgment with the NOM Gold Medal underscores her exceptional contributions to Bhutan’s healthcare landscape.
Questions Related to Exams
Q1: Why was Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh honored with Bhutan’s National Order of Merit (NOM) Gold Medal?
A1: Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh received the NOM Gold Medal in recognition of her exceptional contributions to public healthcare services in Bhutan, particularly for her role as the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia.
Q2: When and where was the award presented?
A2: The prestigious award was presented by Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Druk Gyalpo (dragon king) of Bhutan, during the celebration of Bhutan’s 116th National Day on December 17, 2023, in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Q3: What significant milestones did Bhutan achieve in public health under Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh’s leadership?
A3: Bhutan, under Dr. Khetrapal Singh’s guidance, achieved notable milestones by eliminating measles in 2017 and rubella in 2023, both ahead of schedule. These accomplishments were crucial in advancing public health initiatives in the region.