WHO Director-General receives honorary degree from Edinburgh University

Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has today received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh for his contribution to raising the profile of nurses and midwives from across the globe.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the head of the world’s leading public health agency received the title of doctor honoris causa for nursing studies at the University’s historic McEwan Hall.

Dr Tedros was elected as the Director General of WHO in July 2017, and was re-elected to a second term in May 2022 during the Seventy-Fifth World Health Assembly. He is the first person from WHO African Region to hold the globally-influential position and be presented with this accolade.

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Under the leadership of Dr Tedros, the member states of the World Health Assembly designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director- General of the World Health Organisation receiving his honorary degree in the field of nursing

Whilst there was the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic through which had a detrimental impact on the campaign, it continued to underline the work of nurses and midwives, highlighting the challenging conditions they face, and advocated for increased investments in the workforce as part of the WHO’s commitment to health for all.

Dr Tedros has spoken of how nurses are the "bridge" of healthcare, a crucial link between the people of the community and the complex healthcare system.

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He said: “I am honoured to receive this honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, and I do so on behalf of nurses, midwives, and other health professionals worldwide, who work, day in and day out, without fanfare, to heal and save lives."

He continued: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands and dangers that many faced only grew. Despite this, nurses and other health and care workers took their place at the forefront of the pandemic response. Just as they care for us, we must do all in our power to safeguard, protect, train and equip health professionals so they can perform their roles effectively and safely.”

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Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director- General of the World Health Organisation and Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty, a world-leading academic receiving their honorary degrees

Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty, a world-leading academic, clinician, policy and thought leader in the field of nursing, also received an honorary degree as part of the graduation ceremony on July 14.

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The award is in recognition of her influential world-leading academic and clinical abilities with more than 25 years of strategic organisational leadership in the health and higher education sectors.

Aisha Holloway, professor of nursing studies and co-director of the Edinburgh Global Nursing Initiative at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Our students have done incredibly well despite facing a number of challenges during their studies, so it is wonderful that they have the chance to meet such globally influential and inspiring figures as part of their graduation celebrations.

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"Dr Tedros has transformed the global position of nursing, and Professor Dame Anne Marie was listed as one of 70 most influential nurses in 70 years of the NHS. We are delighted to be able to honour their work at our first proper in-person celebration at McEwan Hall since the Covid-19 pandemic.”