PROF. MIRIAM K. WERE
Born in 1940, in Kenya the seventh child of a Quaker family that believed in education, she
received her first degree in natural sciences and became a teacher. However, 1967 due to her
fascination with health care challenges she decided to join Nairobi faculty of Medicine which
had just opened. Although some of her family members got concerned about her move, Were
was supported by her husband who felt that there was important work to be done. Her academic
qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree (BA) in Natural Sciences from William Penn College,
Iowa (1964), a Post-graduate Diploma in Education from Makerere University,(1966), Bachelor
of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, (MB ChB), University of Nairobi (1973), Master of Public
Health, Johns Hopkins University (1976), and Doctor of Public Health, (Health Planning and
Management) from Johns Hopkins University (1981).
Miriam Were is a Professor of Public Health at the Department of International Health, Health
Planning and Management at Johns Hopkins University (USA). A look at her involvement in
activities around the globe and more specifically in East Africa, reveals a woman of strength and
a major force in changing health care in Africa. She is an icon of health professionalism,
especially in Public Health. Some refer to her as ‘one of the unsung strengths of the continent’.
Being a mother, she understands all the pain of motherhood and child rearing, especially in
remote rural societies where access to modern health facilities still remains a dream. For the past
40 years, Were has dedicated her life to advancing the health and welfare of the people of Africa
through a focus on the practicalities of delivering service at the local level. She has mobilized
communities to develop and implement innovative solutions to health problems. One illustrious
example of her community-based approach is the ongoing work on public toilet facilities in local
communities to improve hygiene and overcome longstanding taboos. She has also drastically
improved the infant vaccination rate by organizing children into small groups to visit local
clinics. Her innovations have had enduring impact across the entire African continent, through
her engagement with the African Union and as a key health advisor to the African Heads of state
on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Her style of work through the direct engagement of the
youth, sex workers, drug abusers and homosexuals has encouraged openness and frank
discussion of sexuality and HIV/AIDS and has contributed to the reduction of stigma and
discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. She is a dedicated advocate for vulnerable
populations, especially the poor and the marginalized. She is also committed to the
empowerment and development of all voices irrespective on one’s sex, tribe, age or class
background. Widows and orphans severely affected by HIV/AIDS are among those most
positively touched by her contribution to expanding access to medical services.
Prof. M. Were has also received many awards and honors as Academic and Health Professor.
• On 28th of May, 2008, received the HIDEYO NOGUCHI AFRICA PRIZE, (Medical
Services by Japan), presented by the Prime Minister of Japan in the presence of the His
Imperial Majesty, The Emperor of Japan and Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of Japan
with over 40 African Heads of State and world leaders present during the TICAD IV in
Yokohoma. This was the first time this prize was presented. The co-winner was Prof
Brian Greenwood, medial Research.
• On 18th July, 2007, received THE QUEEN ELIZABETH II GOLD MEDAL for
outstanding contributions to International Public Health and supporting the health needs
of disadvantaged people in London.
• On 5th July, 2007, during the World YMCA Women Leading Change Awards, she was
awarded the TRAIL BLAZER-“for her life-long commitment to working with
disadvantaged people to improve the quality of their lives and her innovative approaches
to community empowerment and for her current leadership driving the National
HIV/AIDS response in Nairobi Kenya”.
• On 29th October, 2006, awarded the MEDAL OF THE ITALIAN CABINET by the
International Scientific Committee of the Pio Manzu Centre. Professor Miriam K. Were
received this award at the same time as one awarded to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of
Liberia; the first African women to be given these awards by the Pio Manzu Centre,
• On 10th March, 2006, marking the International Women’s Day in Kenya, was awarded
THE EVE WOMAN OF YEAR AWARD IN THE ACADEMIA CATEGORY for
• On Kenya’s National Day, 12th December, 2005, Professor Miriam K.Were received
from President Kibaki, the ELDER OF THE ORDER OF THE BURNING SPEAR
(EBS) of the Republic of Kenya for “distinguished service rendered to the nation,”
including creating an enabling environment for effective HIV/AIDS response. The
Award is in the Second Group of National Honours.
• In the period 1998-2000 Prof. Miriam K. Were had the Honour of being the sole African
candidate for consideration by the UN Secretary General for the post of UN
Undersecretary as UNFPA Executive Director.
• In 2000, she was Cited in the INTERNATIONAL WHO’S WHO OF PROFESSIONAL
AND BUSINESS WOMEN, 8th Edition and awarded the INTERNATIONAL ORDER
OF MERIT, (IOM).
• In 1993, she received Obelix of Axum Award from the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia for
having Worked with the people of Ethiopia.
Some of her selected publications are as follows:
a) PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION IN THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE (PPHC): Doctoral
Dissertation. 1981, Johns Hopkins University
b) ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT OF COMMUNITY-BASED HEALTH
CARE (OMCHC) (1982; UNICEF).
c) ACCELERATED CHILD HEALTH DEVELOPMENT (ACHD) published in WHO
Health system Research Series. 1992.
Lastly Prof. Were serves on numerous National and International Committee through which she