Sexual and reproductive health

Dr Katherine Ba-Thike: A champion of sexual and reproductive health and family planning

8 March 2019 | International Women’s Day is an annual occasion that not only puts the spotlight on issues that affect women, but also celebrates those women who are working hard to address these issues.

Photo of Katherine
Photo: Mario Festin

This year, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) at the World Health Organization (WHO) turns the spotlight on Dr Katherine “Kathy” Ba-Thike. Sadly, Katherine’s long and exceptional work in reproductive health and family planning came to an end when she passed away on 27 February 2019.

Well-loved and respected, Kathy was more than just a colleague to the people whom she worked with—she was also a dear friend, a mentor, a sister. That is why her passing was met with much sorrow by those who knew her well.

Dedicated, respected, passionate and loved

Many colleagues in the department will remember her as the dearest and most efficient professional and colleague,” said Dr Nathalie Broutet.

Dr Moazzam Ali, recalls Katherine fondly: “I was lucky to have had a chance to work with her. She was a dedicated professional who was committed to her work and also a great mentor.”

Dr Mario Festin, spoke with sadness of Katherine’s passing. “I have known Kathy since the 90s and known her to be a very bright and smart colleague but very friendly as well,” he said. Dr Festin also remembered Katherine as “really very caring and gracious and she always had the interest of the Organization first among others.”

A sterling track record

Katherine worked at the World Health Organization between 2003–2011. During that time, , she was the Area Manager for Asia and Pacific, Technical Co-operation with Countries. She carried out her work ― to ensure that the countries in those regions received the technical support that they needed in order to move forward in ensuring sexual and reproductive health for their peoples ― with both great conviction and empathy.

“She was very enthusiastic in supporting Member States and that gave her an advantage in that she knew what each country needed, where the gaps were and who to contact,” said Dr Ali. He recalls a time when he and Katherine worked on a research on preventing cervical cancer through screening in Mongolia. “We were able to implement the outcomes of that research, which served as seeds to further enhance cervical cancer screening in Mongolia,” said Dr Ali.

Dr Festin echoes Dr Ali’s comment about Katherine’s strong country-focused approach. “She was able to reach out to all the countries in both South East Asia and Western Pacific regions and she was respected by the WHO country point person in Reproductive Health. She was not only a technical expert but she was also a good coordinator for these dissemination and scaling up programmes,” said Dr Festin.

Prior to her work at WHO, Katherine worked at the Asia-Pacific Development and Communication Centre, as Advisor on HIV/AIDS/STDs, and before that as Advisor on Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programmes at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Technical Services Team for East and South-East Asia 1999–2003.

Reproductive health and family planning may have lost one of its greatest champions, but the legacy of Katherine’s work will surely leave a positive and lasting effect to everyone, most notably the people whose lives she has so greatly touched by her dedication, passion and kindness. Dr Katherine Ba-Thike will be greatly missed.