Dr. Rita Thapa

Dr. Rita Thapa is a public health physician from Nepal who began her career in the 1960s as a medical officer in the Maternity Hospital at Kathmandu. Having observed too many preventable deaths and disabilities from lack of access to basic prenatal health care and family planning services, she became the first medical Officer-in-Charge of Nepal’s Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning Program, establishing a country-wide network of integrated primary health care delivery services. The program’s training of village health workers (VHWs) and female community health volunteers (FCHVs) at the ward level remains an important backbone of Nepal’s health system to this day.
Dr. Thapa joined the World Health Organization in 1986, working in the Manila, Geneva, and New Delhi offices. Dr. Thapa was the first woman Director in the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia before retiring in 2001. She has since been a member of Nepal’s High Level Health Policy Advisory Committee, the National AIDS Council, the Poverty Alleviation Fund and the Country Coordination Committee for Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She also chaired the Nepal Chapter of the South Asia Foundation.
As a Nepal’s first national badminton champion in her teens, Dr. Rita Thapa remains an avid sportswoman, now a dedicated golfer.