Gates Foundation CEO steps down after five years

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says its CEO is stepping down after more than five years in the role

SEATTLE -- The CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is stepping down after more than five years in the role.

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellman on Thursday cited family and health as reasons for leaving the world’s richest philanthropy, calling it “the toughest decision” of her career. The Seattle Times reports that Desmond-Hellman, 62, was the third CEO in the organization’s 20-year history. With a background as a research scientist and physician, she was the first to come from outside Microsoft.

The foundation said Thursday that president of global policy and advocacy and chief strategy officer, Mark Suzman, will become CEO in February. Suzman has been with the foundation since 2007, and before that held multiple positions at the United Nations, including senior adviser for policy and strategic communications for the office of Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

During Desmond-Hellmann’s tenure as the foundation’s CEO, she oversaw its first major anti-poverty investment in the United States, the establishment of the Gates Medical Research Institute, increased funding to improve access to birth control and support women in developing countries, and a record-breaking grant to the University of Washington for health research.