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Gro Harlem Brundtland

Director General of WHO (1998-2003)


Politics & Economy





Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland attributes her twin passions for public health and political activism to her father, a doctor and cabinet minister. The early seeds of internationalism inspired by her family took deeper roots during her experience at Harvard, working with distinguished medical experts from around the world.

Dr. Brundtland completed her medical studies at Oslo University.  As a newly qualified doctor, she won a scholarship to the Harvard School of Public Health. Later employed with the Ministry of Health in Oslo, Dr. Brundtland focused on children's health issues. In 1974 she was asked to serve as Norway’s Minister of the Environment focusing on the links between public health and the environment. At age 41, Dr. Brundtland became the first woman Prime Minister of Norway—and the youngest person ever appointed. Her cabinet of eight women and nine men represented the highest level of gender equality in history as Dr. Brundtland continued to lead her country for more than a decade.

She returned to her roots in medicine serving as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)—a position utilizing her considerable skills as a physician, politician, and activist. Under her forward-thinking leadership, WHO confronted the global threat of the SARS virus and her rapid response and information networking are largely credited with helping prevent the widespread growth of the disease.  Dr. Brundtland also intensified the debate on global health as key to economic development, and began programs to curb malaria, tobacco use, tuberculosis, and AIDS. Dr. Brundtland left WHO in 2003 after succeeding in getting support for the first ever negotiated agreement on a major public health issue: The Tobacco Convention.

She served as a member of the United Nations high-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and was named to serve as UN Special Envoys for Climate Change.   In 2007 she became a member of The Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who contribute their wisdom, independent leadership, and integrity to tackling the world’s toughest problems with the goal of making the world a better place.

Dr. Brundtland travels and lectures extensively as a leading voice for a healthier and better educated world, and a champion of sustainable development.


  • Health
  • Politics
  • Education