Washington D.C, 30 September 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today recognized Dr. Reina Roa Rodriguez of Panama for her services to public health by presenting her with the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership. The recognition was made before an audience of health leaders of the Americas at the 57th PAHO Directing Council. 

Dra Reina Roa Rodríguez receiving her award

The award recognizes Dr. Roa’s outstanding contributions to public health in Panama, particularly her work in the development and implementation of the country’s tobacco control legislation. Thanks to her efforts, Panama was the second country in the Region to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO/FCTC). 

“I am honored to receive the 2019 PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership, in recognition of my work, which has only been possible thanks to collective efforts from others in my country, the Americas and the world,” said Dr. Roa. “A grain of sand is not enough to transform health management, but it does contribute to the process of continuous change that is required,” she added. 

Dr. Roa is a Medical Doctor and currently serves as an official at the Panamanian Ministry of Health’s Health Planning Department, where she led the development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of the country’s 2016-2025 National Health Policy. She has worked as a Ministry of Health Official since 1986, in a variety of roles including National Director of Human Resources for Health and Director of Health Services Delivery.  

Dr. Roa has been one of the foremost advocates for tobacco control, both at the national and international levels. She has represented the Region of the Americas at the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control since 2014 and was the author of the first studies on environmental contamination of nicotine in enclosed public spaces, the results of which led to Panama ratifying the WHO FCTC.  

“Beyond her tireless work as a public health advocate in Panama, Dr. Roa’s efforts supporting the implementation of tobacco control legislation in other countries of the Region, such as Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico, also highlight her spirit of solidarity,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne. “I am honored to present her with this award today,” she added. 

Established in 1969, the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership is awarded by the governments of the Americas in recognition of outstanding contributions to improving health systems development; management and administration of health services; development of programs, projects or initiatives with proven effects on coverage and access to health services at the national or regional level; among others. The award consists of a diploma and a cash prize of US5,000. Previous winners include Natalia Laraespada Beer of Belize (2018), Stella Bolaños Varela of Costa Rica (2016), Pastor Castell-Florit Serrate of Cuba (2016); Miguel Ángel Lezana Fernández of Mexico (2014); and Aron Nowinski of Uruguay (2012).

The Directing Council of PAHO brings together ministers of health and high-level delegates of the PAHO/WHO Member States in Washington, D.C. to discuss and analyze regional health policies and set priorities for technical cooperation and collaboration among countries. 


— 57th Directing Council  
— PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership 2019