Thomas Zeltner

Special Envoy of the World Health Organization (WHO).


Thomas Zeltner is born in Bern (Switzerland) in 1947. He graduated with an MD and a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Bern. He is a 2010 Fellow of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative. He holds a specialist degree in human pathology and forensic medicine.

He is board member of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and honorary member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences. Since 1992 he has been Professor of Public Health at the University of Berne and is a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health (Boston). He chairs the Advisory Board of the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

He currently serves as Special Envoy of the World Health Organization (WHO). In this capacity he advises the Director General of WHO Margaret Chan in critical areas of the current reform of this UN agency.

He is Co-Founder of the Global Patient Safety Forum, a convening organization of the world leading patient safety organizations and is Managing Editor of the Journal of Patient Safety. He is member of the Global Agenda Council on Digital Health of the World Economic Forum (WEF). He is also President of the Swiss Blood Transfusion and Stem Cell Centre of the Swiss Red Cross, the organization responsible for securing the supply of blood and blood stem cells in Switzerland

From 1991 to 2009 Thomas Zeltner has been the Director-General of the Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland, the National Health and Public Health Authority, and Secretary of State for Health of Switzerland. In this capacity he regularly represented Switzerland at the World Health Assemblies (1991-2009). He was a member and Vice-President of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (1999-2002).As Director-General of the Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland he was a key actor in Swiss health policy and instrumental in promoting health promotion and disease prevention. He has presided over changes to transform the regulated market model of the Swiss health care sector into a more value and consumer driven health care system.

Prior to these functions Thomas Zeltner was head of the Medical Services at the University Hospital in Bern (Switzerland) and held various academic positions at the Medical Faculty of the University of Bern and at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston (USA).