“George Brock Chisholm was a Canadian First World War veteran, medical practitioner, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the 13th Canadian Surgeon General. He was a strong advocate of religious tolerance and often commented that man's worst enemy was not disease, which he felt was curable as long as men worked together. Chisholm was born in Oakville, Ontario. After the war, Chisholm pursued his lifelong passion of medicine, earning his M.D. from the University of Toronto by 1924 before interning in England, where he specialized in psychiatry. After six years in general practice in his native Oakville, he attended Yale University where he specialized in the mental health of children. During this time, Chisholm developed his strong Marxist view that children should be raised in an "as intellectually free environment" as possible, independent of the prejudices and biases (political, moral and religious) of their parents.
He joined the war effort as a psychiatrist dealing with psychological aspects of soldier training, before rising to the rank of Director General of the Medical Services, the highest position within the medical ranks of the Canadian Army. That same year, Chisholm took his views to the international scene, becoming the Executive Secretary of the Interim Commission of the World Health Organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland. He was one of 16 international experts consulted in drafting the agency's first constitution.
It was Chisholm who proposed the name "World Health Organization", with the intent of emphasizing that the Organization would be truly global, serving all nations. Chisholm’s vision of WHO was a determining factor in the election for the post of Director-General. Parts of WHO’s constitution, including the definition of health as "…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity", were first heard in Chisholm’s speech to the final meeting of WHO’s technical planning committee.
The WHO became a permanent UN fixture in April 1948, and Chisholm became the agency's first Director- General. Chisholm was now in the unique position of being able to bring his views on the importance of international mental and physical health to the world. Refusing re-election, he occupied the post until 1953. Under Chisholm’s leadership WHO dealt successfully with a cholera epidemic in Egypt, malaria outbreaks in Greece and Sardinia, and introduced a global shortwave epidemic-warning system for ships at sea. WHO also launched 2 long-term projects to standardize the names, descriptions, and strengths of drugs throughout the world.
adapted from the World Health Organization website.