Dr. Anne Merriman, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her work in Palliative Care

In 1993, at the age of 59, Anne Merriman founded the first hospice in Uganda, Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU). The palliative care movement burgeoned under Dr. Merriman’s leadership. Over the last twenty-five years, Uganda has emerged as the gold-star standard for palliative care services in Africa. 

Born in Liverpool in 1935, Anne joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMMs) in Ireland at the age of 18. Since graduating as a medical doctor in 1963 from University College Dublin, she spent the next 10 years working in Nigeria interspersed with posts in Drogheda, Dublin and Edinburgh, during which she successfully took her MRCPI and MRCP Edinburgh as well as diplomas in child health and tropical medicine.

Anne decided to leave the MMMs and take off the veil in 1973. She returned to the United Kingdom and was a consultant, lecturer and senior lecturer in Geriatric Medicine from 1973 to 1981. Here, she first became interested in the needs of the terminally ill. In 1983, she was Associate Professor in Community medicine in USM, Malaysia and from 1984-1990, she introduced palliative care to Singapore with a volunteer home care service, while working as a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Community Health in National University of Singapore. Today this service is one of the best in SE Asia.

Pure oral liquid morphine formula was first reconstituted in Singapore at Dr. Merriman’s request for a simple solution for those cancer patients dying in pain at home. Oral liquid morphine is cheap and easily administered by the patient or care taker. The work and advances in Singapore opened the door to affordable pain control and holistic care in Africa. The formula came over with Dr. Merriman when she accepted a job as Medical Director of Nairobi Hospice in 1990. The pain and suffering witnessed in Nairobi laid the seeds for the vision of Hospice Africa. 

Hospice Africa was founded in 1992 with a mission to initiate and support palliative care for all of Africa. Following a feasibility study in 4 countries, Uganda was selected as the country to build the affordable and culturally acceptable model.  Dr. Merriman started HAU with enough money for 3 staff for 3 months.  Despite the odds, and fortified by ‘the fire in the belly’ Dr. Merriman had the determination and faith it could work.

In 2018, HAU will be celebrating its Silver Jubilee (25th year anniversary)! Since 1993, HAU has cared for over 31,000 patients at three sites across the country. It founded an accredited institute, Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa (IHPCA), which has trained over 10,000 health care professionals from Uganda and abroad, making it “the largest and most established academic palliative care institution on the continent.” Uganda became the first country to change it’s statute to allow nurses to prescribe morphine after taking ‘prescriber courses’  to help meet the demands of the suffering. Driven by an ethos grounded in supporting partner organizations, HAU has helped build and foster the development of other organizations in an effort to comprehensively resolve this issue on a national and continental level.

Currently, Uganda leads the continent with 229 palliative care hospices or services and ranks as on par with the developing world in quality of care. As a result, Uganda has become the model and a beacon for other countries across Africa. Learn more about HAU and 25 years of highlights in HAU and the evolution of palliative care in Uganda. 

Presently, Dr. Anne is the Director of Hospice Africa Uganda’s International Programs, supporting new initiatives in Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Sudan, Rwanda and Benin. International Programs also holds annual trainings for initiators in Uganda. To date, this program has taught professionals from over 30 Francophone and Anglophone African countries.    

For more details, please refer to an article in IASP, From Nun to Nobel Nominee or refer to the UCD alumni profile here

President Higgins of Ireland award Dr. Merriman the Presidential award for ‘Work-in-Developing-Countries’ (2013.)


Dr Anne Merriman, MBE[i] , MB[ii] , BCh, DCH[iii], DTM&H[iv], MCommH (Lpool[v]), FRCM (Nig)[vi], AM(Sing)[vii], FRCP  (Edin)[viii], FRCP(Ire)[ix], Hon Fellow, (JMU)[x], Hon DSc[xi] (Edge Hill U), Hon Fellowship UCD[xii]

Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, 2014

Founder and Director of Policy and International Programs, Hospice Africa Ugand

Honorary Teaching Fellow, International Observatory on End of Life Care in the Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University, 

Honorary Professor of Palliative Care at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda

Founder Member and the Founding Vice Chair of the Board of the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (formed in 1999)

Founder Member and the Founding Vice Chair of the Board of the African Palliative Care Association (formed in 2003)

Board Member of Hospice Africa UK and Hospice Africa

Past Board Member of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC)

Vice President for East Africa of the African Organizations for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC)

[i] MBE: Member of British Empire, honorary for contribution to health in Uganda.

[ii] MB BCh: Basic medical degrees in Ireland

[iii] DCH: Diploma in child health

[iv] DTM&H: Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

[v] MComm H: Master’s in International Community Health

[vi] FRCM (Nig): Fellow of the College of Medicine in Nigeria

[vii] AM(Sing ): Member of the Academy of Medicine in Singapore

[viii] FRCP (Edin) Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh

[ix] FRCP(Ire): Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland

[x] FJMU: Fellow of John Moores University Liverpool- for her contribution to the relief of pain in the world

[xi] DSc(Hon): Honorary Doctor of Science at Edge Hill University, Liverpool- for her contribution to palliative care in Africa

[xii] Honorary fellowship from University of College Dublin for her accomplishments in palliative care