UCL News


WHO Chief Scientist to give keynote at UCL-Lancet Lecture

1 June 2021

UCL and world leading medical journal The Lancet will welcome Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), to give the keynote speech at this year’s UCL-Lancet Lecture.

an image of Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Introduced by UCL’s President & Provost Dr Michael Spence, “Lessons from the Pandemic for Science and Public Health” will explore some of the key learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and present insights on the international response to the pandemic. Held on Wednesday 9th June, the public lecture will also act as an opportunity to discuss the role of science in global decision making.

A Q&A session chaired by The Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief Dr Richard Horton will follow the keynote lecture from Dr Swaminathan; panellists include UCL Institute for Global Health (IGH) Director and soon to be Dean of the Faculty of Population Health, Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, as well as Professor Alison Rodger, also from UCL IGH.  

The UCL-Lancet Lecture 2021 comes as the world continues to grapple with Coronavirus and its impacts; whilst the UK’s lockdown restrictions ease and life begins to return to normality across the country, the picture for many around the world is still one of tough restrictions and challenging dilemmas.

As well as being a chance to hear from decision makers at the heart of the global public health crisis, this lecture will also provide global audiences with the opportunity to participate in the debate by submitting questions and comments.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, UCL’s vast community of academics has come together to provide advice and expertise to help tackle the virus and its impacts.  

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar (IGH) said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has really forced us all to rethink the way that we approach public health, research, and international relations. At UCL in particular, our experts have played a prominent role in researching new ways of tackling the pandemic and advancing public knowledge by applying the breadth of our cross-disciplinary research to help society become more resilient. As Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation, I can’t think of a better person than Dr Swaminathan to share valuable lessons and guide us towards a safer and more equitable future for global health.”

The UCL-Lancet lecture is an annual event hosted by UCL Grand Challenges, UCL IGH and The Lancet and has taken place since 2006. Last year’s event saw the World Bank Group’s Dr Muhammad Pate present his Keynote lecture, “Global Health Preparedness in the Face of Emerging Epidemics”, with responses from Professor Andrew Hayward (Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care) and Professor Ann Blandford (Deputy Director of UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering).

Other past keynote speakers include Arundhati Roy, Winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel The God of Small Things, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, and Former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.



  • Dr Soumya Swaminathan / WHO

Media contact
Evie Calder

Tel: +44 (0) 7858 152143

E: e.calder [at] ucl.ac.uk