Intended for healthcare professionals


Margaret Mungherera

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 22 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1361
  1. Matt Limb
  1. Croydon
  1. limb{at}

Ugandan doctors’ leader, psychiatrist, and former president of the World Medical Association

Margaret Mungherera championed the role of women in medicine and fought injustices in health systems, notably in Africa. Her death in India, where she sought continued treatment for colon cancer, shows how much still needs to be done to improve access to care and diagnosis in poorer countries. Having to seek help outside her own country for a cancer that was once treatable in Uganda must have caused particular anguish, according to one associate. Mungherera died on 4 February 2014, World Cancer Day. “I think it’s fair to say that she was the victim of the situation she was fighting against,” says Otmar Kloiber, a former colleague and the World Medical Association’s (WMA) secretary general. In one of her last public talks, to the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) in April 2016, on the importance of doctors’ welfare, she candidly discussed her illness. Her warm tone expressed empathy, not victimhood, as she told colleagues: “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m more active than many people.”

Improving access to healthcare

Mungherera worked throughout her career to improve healthcare on behalf of patients and health workers. In her speech to the KMA she highlighted how many doctors were at breaking point from long hours, poor working conditions, and high levels of stress, anxiety, and other health problems. She told colleagues to look after each other, as she acknowledged that, too often, doctors could not afford the care that they needed to keep working effectively.

Muniini K Mulera, a Ugandan born paediatrician and neonatologist based in Toronto, who had known Mungherera since the late 1990s, told The BMJ, “Margaret cared deeply about the welfare of fellow doctors working in challenging environments. She elevated physicians’ rights and …

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