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Senior Leadership Team

Our 4,000 plus staff are led by Executive Director John D Clemens and the Senior Leadership Team. Together they are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation and are accountable to the Board of Trustees


Senior leadership

Dr Clemens is an expert in vaccine development and evaluation in developing countries with a career spanning academia, government and international organisations. He was appointed Executive Director of icddr,b by its international Board of Trustees. A former research scientist at icddr,b from 1983-1988, Dr Clemens transitioned into the role from his previous position as Professor and Vice-Chairman of Epidemiology and founding Director of the Center for Global Infectious Diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health.

Dr Clemens’ previous roles include Chief of Epidemiology at the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland, and Chief of the Epidemiology Branch and Director of the World Health Organization International Collaborating Center for the Clinical Evaluation of Vaccines in Developing Countries at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the US National Institutes of Health. In 1999, Dr Clemens became the founding Director-General of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, Korea, where he served until 2011. As a scientist, Dr Clemens' research has focused on generating the evidence required for policy decisions about vaccine introduction in developing world populations, and innovative approaches to evaluating their effectiveness. He led the team that developed the first low-cost oral vaccine against cholera, which has recently deployed in Haiti, Guinea, Thailand, and Sierra Leone, and which is now being piloted in Dhaka.

In 2010, Dr Clemens was awarded the prestigious Sabin Gold Medal in recognition of his work. He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers, and serves on the editorial boards of several international journals. He is an elected member of the American Epidemiology Society,a Fellow of both the American College of Epidemiology and the Infectious Disease Society of America, and a member of multiple WHO expert advisory committees.

Dr Clemens is a graduate of Stanford (BS) and Yale (MD) Universities. He received his internal medicine training at Case Western Reserve University and his post-doctoral research training in clinical epidemiology as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Yale University.

Mr Syed Monjurul Islam joined icddr,b as Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer in February 2017 after retiring from his role as Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of Bangladesh in October 2016.

As a senior member of the Bangladesh Civil Service, Mr Islam has previously represented the government on a wide range of committees, which include The Global Fund, GAVI and the icddr,b Board of Trustees. He has vast experience in health, finance, project/programme management, governance, bilateral funding and working with donors, as well as team building. As Health Secretary Mr Islam was responsible for overseeing the Ministry of Health’s annual budget of approximately US$2 billion and 200,000 staff across seven executing agencies.

Mr Islam has a PGD in ‘Development Planning Techniques’ from the Graduate School of Development Studies, Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague Netherlands (1997), and an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (1983) and a Bachelor of Commerce, from the University of Dhaka (1979).

Professor Allen Ross, MD, PhD, DMS, FRCP (Edin), FRCPath, joined icddr,b infectious diseases division in 2018. He is a tenured professor and chair of tropical medicine & infectious diseases with Griffith University, Australia, and a physician scientist with Menzies Health Institute, Queensland.

His expertise and research interests lie in the realm of postgraduate education, global health, infectious diseases, medical microbiology, disease control, and vaccination. Prof Ross completed a BSc in Biology, MSc in Human Biology during the 1990s from Canada before proceeding to Brisbane, Australia where he completed a Doctorate in Tropical Health in 1998 with Distinction, a MBBS in 2005 and MD in 2010 with honours and a Doctorate of Medical Science (DMS) through the University of Queensland in 2017.

Prof Ross has authored and co-authored over 100 international peer-reviewed publications, reviews and book chapters on various aspects of global health, infectious disease control and vaccine development. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, UK and a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology in the United Kingdom (FRC. Path), Fellow of the Australian College of Tropical Medicine (FACTM) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health in the United Kingdom (FRSPH). 

Dr Shams El Arifeen was the first director of icddr,b’s late Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, and is now the Senior Director of Maternal and Child Health research. Dr Arifeen is also an acting professor at the James P. Grant School of Public Health at the BRAC University in Bangladesh, where he teaches epidemiology. Dr Arifeen has nearly 25 years of experience in child and neonatal health, health services and health systems research, including nine years in government health services, with a focus on health interventions for developing populations. He also has extensive experience in research and evaluation, with particular expertise in cluster randomized trials, large-scale surveys as well as with community and facility-based evaluations of interventions and programmes, using both experimental and quasi-experimental designs.

Dr Arifeen actively participates in national efforts within Bangladesh to scale up evidence-based neonatal and child health interventions. He currently leads the team assisting the government of Bangladesh and its partners in monitoring and evaluating health services and programmes. He has served on a number of Bangladesh’s technical and advisory committees, including the National Committee on Immunization Practices, Technical Sub-Committee on National Newborn Health Strategy and the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey, Urban Health Survey and Bangladesh Maternal Mortality Survey technical committees. Dr Arifeen contributed to the 2003 Lancet Series on Child Survival and has published more than 140 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals. He holds an MBBS and DrPH and is trained in medicine, public health, nutrition and epidemiology.

Dr Tahmeed Ahmed oversees nutrition-related research and services at icddr,b, which includes obtaining funds, facilitating research of members, collaboration with international agencies including WHO, UNICEF, IAEA and academic institutions within and outside Bangladesh. Dr Ahmed is also an Adjunct Professor in Public Health Nutrition at the James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University. Prior to this, he was scientist in the Clinical Sciences Division of icddr,b where he carried out clinical and public health research in nutrition and infectious diseases, including diarrhoeal diseases and child tuberculosis. He holds a PhD in Paediatrics from University of Tsukuba, Japan and an MBBS in Medical Science from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Professor Niyaz Ahmed is an internationally acclaimed scientist in the area of genomics, epidemiology and disease biology of major human and veterinary pathogens. He has been leading the Pathogen Biology/Pathogen Evolution Laboratory at the University of Hyderabad since 2008 where he has been the Chair of the Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, University of Hyderabad, tasked with providing a unified, overarching leadership to 12 research groups active in broader areas of Molecular and Cellular Infection Biology and Bioinformatics. Prof Ahmed also holds appointment as Adjunct Professor of the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, India and was appointed Academic Icon Professor in courtesy, at the University of Malaya, Malaysia from 2012-13. He has been the recipient of the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize of India and is elected to the Fellowships of the Royal Society of Biology (UK), Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and the National Academy of Sciences of India.

Dr Quamrun Nahar is a Social Scientist with more than 25 years of experience in conducting health and population research. She is presently the Acting Senior Director of the Health Systems and Population Studies Division of icddr,b.  She is also heading the Climate Change and Health Initiative of icddr,b.

She joined icddr,b in 1991 and since then worked extensively in the fields of adolescent health, maternal health, and health systems research especially in improving health services for adolescents in Bangladesh. Her seminal work on adolescent health includes: identifying health needs of adolescents in Bangladesh; assessment of youth-friendly health services in Bangladesh; national survey on child marriage, and designing and testing several intervention strategies to improve health information and services for adolescents in Bangladesh.  Her some other recently completed studies include an epidemiological study to assess the burden and risk factors for human papilloma virus (HPV) infection in Bangladesh; evaluation of HIV prevention programs for female sex workers, and assessment of effect of post-abortion family planning services on subsequent fertility behavior. She has extensive experience in research and evaluation with particular focus on large scale surveys as well as evaluation of community and facility-based interventions using mixed method design.

She has served in a number of national technical and advisory committees, including technical committee for Urban Health Survey 2013, Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Care Survey 2010 and 2016 and Adolescent Health Strategy 2016.

She is also an Associate Professor at the James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University and an Adjunct Faculty at the Department of Public Health, North South University, Bangladesh and teaches health research methods. She also worked at the University of Hawaii, USA for a short period of time.

She has obtained her medical degree from Dhaka University, Bangladesh. She has a Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Health Care and Master of Medical Science Degree from the University of Western Australia. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Hawaii, USA. She has received a number of fellowships and awards, namely, Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) fellowship in Population and Reproductive Health, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) Fellowship for Population Policy Program, East West Center Degree Fellowship, Australian Development Aid (AusAID) Fellowship and Dr John W. Sellors’ In Memoriam Award. She has published more than 40 research articles and reports based on her work.

Ms Catherine Spencer leads the communications team at icddr,b. She was previously the Chief Executive Army Families Federation in the United Kingdom and has held a wide variety of board level appointments.

Catherine is an experienced communications professional with a background in publishing. She has more than 10 years’ experience in senior leadership roles, working in the United Kingdom and internationally. She holds a BA degree in History and Anthropology, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Research Methodology and is in the process of completing her MBA.


Mr. Thomas Barry has over 27 years of experience in financial management in the health and research sector. He graduated from University College Dublin, Ireland and began his accounting training with the National Health Service qualifying as a certified chartered accountant (ACCA) UK, now a fellow (FCCA). He also obtained membership as a certified public accountant (CPA). He completed further studies with Edinburgh Business School, and completed his MBA in Strategic Planning in June 2016.

He has worked as a finance director in several research organisations and has managed multiple grants for the EU, USAID, NIH and other donors. He is fully conversant with accounting standards and best practices, analytical with a consistent track record in delivering effective financial solutions.