Everything you need to know about Gavi's incoming CEO, Dr Sania Nishtar

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar has been appointed as Gavi’s next CEO and is due to succeed interim CEO David Marlow in March 2024.

  • 11 January 2024
  • 4 min read
  • by Gavi Staff
Dr Sania Nishtar
Dr Sania Nishtar


How was Dr Nishtar recruited?

The search for Gavi’s next CEO began in June 2023. With a dedicated Search Committee established by the Gavi Board, the search process began in earnest to identify the best possible candidates. A total of 135 people from across diverse gender and geographical backgrounds applied for the position.

Dr Nishtar’s first day will be 18 March 2024, but she has already begun communicating with Gavi’s current interim CEO, David Marlow, with a view to making the transitional period as seamless as possible.

From this longlist, a shortlist of seven candidates was drawn up, with each candidate interviewed during November. Of the seven shortlisted candidates, four were women, and six were from Gavi implementing countries.

In mid-December, a second round of interviews took place with the final candidates, from whom Dr Nishtar was selected as the lead candidate. A meeting was then convened on 10 January 2024, for the Governance Committee to review the decision. The ultimate decision to approve Dr Nishtar’s appointment was taken by Gavi’s Board on Thursday, 11 January.

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Why was Dr Nishtar appointed?

Dr Nishtar was selected from a field of extremely talented and experienced fellow candidates. In unanimously recommending her to the Board, both the Search Committee and Governance Committee noted Dr Nishtar’s strong record as a global leader who is experienced in managing large organisations, building partnerships, and designing and implementing innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Having graduated as a medical doctor from Khyber Medical College in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1986, Dr Nishtar went on to gain a PhD in Medicine from King’s College London. In the decades since, Dr Nishtar has built an outstanding career as an influential global public health leader.

Dr Nishtar has held several leadership positions in civil society and international organisations, including serving as the inaugural Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) for women’s and children’s health, and as Co-Chair of the WHO Independent High-level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases.

Dr Nishtar also has prior experience with Gavi, having served as Chair of Gavi’s Evaluation Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2014, and as an independent member of Gavi’s Board in 2016. In 2020, she was listed among the BBC’s 100 Women, a list of inspiring and influential women from around the world.

In the national government of Pakistan, she served between 2018 and 2022 as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, a role with the status of a Federal Minister. In 2013, during Pakistan’s Caretaker Government, she served as a Federal Minister with responsibility for re-establishing the country’s Ministry of Health among other roles, winning acclaim for transparency and accountability during her time in office.

Commenting on the appointment, Professor José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the Gavi Board, said: “Over three decades of leadership at the national and global levels, Dr Nishtar has built a reputation as a tireless advocate for health equity, an innovative thinker and a proven doer when it comes to solving complex challenges. I am impressed by her accomplishments and excited by the possibilities her appointment brings for our Alliance and our ambitions to protect future generations.”

What happens next?

Dr Nishtar’s first day will be 18 March 2024, but she has already begun communicating with Gavi’s current interim CEO, David Marlow, with a view to making the transitional period as seamless as possible.

Welcoming Dr Nishtar’s appointment, Mr Marlow said: “I have been honoured to lead Gavi with the senior leadership team during this interim period and congratulate the Board on attracting and securing Dr Sania Nishtar as our next CEO. Together with the Gavi team, I am very much looking forward to working closely with Dr Nishtar and our Alliance partners as we strive to meet our ambitious goals.”

Dr Nishtar’s appointment comes at an important time for Gavi. With its fifth five-year strategic period drawing to a close at the end of 2025, Gavi will seek Board approval during 2024 for its 2026–2030 strategy. Alongside future strategy, fundraising will be a priority for Dr Nishtar, with plans already in place for a high-level event to launch Gavi’s investment opportunity, to be co-hosted by France and Africa CDC in June.

Commenting on her appointment, Dr Nishtar said: “Health starts with life-saving vaccines. Over the past 23 years, Gavi has been one of the most impactful organisations in global health. The task ahead is enormous – from health impacts of climate change, to the need to tackle vaccine inequity, prepare for future outbreaks and boost routine immunisation, which I believe is the gateway to achieving Universal Health Coverage. I am honoured by the trust the Gavi Board has placed in me and look forward to working with Gavi’s talented staff and skilled Alliance partners to ensure Gavi reaches hundreds of millions of children in lower-income countries with life-saving vaccines against deadly and debilitating diseases.”