Irish top epidemiologist bags Human Rights Award

Barristers’ representative body presents WHO Covid-19 Global Lead Dr Michael J Ryan Human Rights Award

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO

The barristers’ representative body, the Bar of Ireland, was to present its annual Human Rights Award to Dr Michael J Ryan, Executive Director at the World Health Organization (WHO), this afternoon (November 26) in recognition of his work in public health.

The award is “in recognition of his tireless work and leadership in the field of public health”. The Bar of Ireland described Dr Ryan as being at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 25 years as the WHO Executive Director with responsibilities for its Health Emergencies Programme.

The Irish former trauma surgeon and epidemiologist was leading the WHO response to the Covid-19 pandemic globally.

“The swift, expert guidance provided by the World Health Organization since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has provided great assurance and assistance to people and countries all over the world,” said Maura McNally SC, Chair of The Bar of Ireland.

“That its response is headed up by an Irish man has been a particular source of pride and comfort for people in this country. To hear one of our own, provide such authoritative advice in press briefings at the peak of the pandemic was particularly reassuring.”

She added that for Dr Ryan, the pandemic we were currently living through was only the latest chapter of what had been an exceptional career working to combat emerging and epidemic disease threats.

“He has quite literally put his life on the line in the course of his work to defend people’s human right to health — a right so highlighted in 2020 — and for that reason, he is a most deserving recipient of The Bar of Ireland’s Human Rights Award.”

Dr Ryan has since held several positions throughout his career at the WHO including Coordinator of Epidemic Response (2000-2003), Operational Coordinator of WHO’s response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak (2003), and Director of Global Alert and Response Operations (2005-2011).

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