WHO Director-General receives honorary degree

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh.


The head of the world’s leading public health agency received the title of doctor honoris causa for the significant contribution he has made to raise the profile of nurses and midwifes across the globe.

He received his honorary degree as part of the graduation ceremony for Nursing Studies students at the University’s historic McEwan Hall. 

Dr Tedros was elected at 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.

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.

Despite the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the campaign underlined 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.

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,” said  Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “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.

Dr Tedros GhebreyesusDirector General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)

World-leading academic

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 14 July.

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.

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. 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.

Professor Aisha HollowayProfessor of Nursing Studies and Co-Director of the Edinburgh Global Nursing Initiative at the University of Edinburgh

Related links 

Nursing studies

World Health Organisation