Irish man Dr. Mike Ryan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme, is set to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Red Cross.

Dr. Ryan will be honored during the Irish Red Cross’s annual Humanitarian Awards which will be hosted virtually on December 15. 

We are so delighted to announce @DrMikeRyan will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the @irishredcross


Tickets for the event are still available! #IRCHumanitarianAwards #COVID19

— Irish Red Cross (@irishredcross) December 9, 2020

The Irish Red Cross said in a statement: “Dr. Ryan, a native of Sligo and Mayo, was brought to global attention this year thanks to his role as Executive Director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Programme, leading the team responsible for the international readiness and response to Covid-19. 

“However, his work with Covid-19 is just the tip of the iceberg in a career dedicated to eradicating infectious diseases all around the world. While training as a young doctor in NUI Galway, there was no way for Mike Ryan to know that his work would take him to some of the world’s most dangerous contexts and lead him to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

“An injury sustained in a road traffic accident in Iraq in the early 90s prohibited him from pursuing his training as a surgeon, so Dr. Ryan turned his attention toward the field of public health and infectious diseases. 

“In 1996, he joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in a newly formed unit that focused on emerging diseases and epidemics. He deployed to multiple countries and led responses to epidemics across the globe. 

“Using this experience, he helped in developing new approaches and mechanisms for responding to epidemics like the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). He was appointed the Director of Global Alert and Response in 2005. 

“In 2013, he joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as a Senior Adviser and served until 2017, fighting wild polio virus epidemics in Syria, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. During this time, given his Ebola experience, he was also asked to deploy to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as Senior Advisor to the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in West Africa. 

“In 2017, Dr. Ryan was appointed as Deputy Director-General to the WHO the Health Emergencies Programme and in 2019 as its Executive Director.”

Speaking of Dr. Ryan’s achievements, Pat Carey, Chair of the Irish Red Cross said, “Dr. Mike Ryan has been at the forefront of managing risks to global health for almost 25 years now and his career helping the world’s most vulnerable people is an inspiration to us all. 

“In what has been a difficult year for so many, the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards aims to celebrate the people who have dedicated their lives in service of others and I cannot think of a more worthy recipient of this award than Dr. Ryan.

“As an organization, the Red Cross has seen the devastating impact of Covid-19 in communities at home and abroad and I am thankful that Ireland, and the rest of the world, has had Dr. Ryan’s steadying hand at the helm during this pandemic.” 

Dr. Mike Ryan will be honored at this year's Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards, which seek to recognize those who have had a humanitarian impact on the lives of others through volunteering, skill-sharing, storytelling, or fundraising and will highlight the efforts of those who have given a voice to humanitarian issues.

This year's event will be streamed virtually on December 15 at 7 pm and will feature a keynote speech from John Lonergan, who took home the Lifetime Achievement award in 2019.  You are invited to register for free tickets at

Here are all of the finalists for this year's Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards:

Humanitarian of the Year:

  • Aubrey McCarthy - Tiglin
  • Mick Ryan - UN World Food Programme
  • Avril Patterson - International Committee of the Red Cross 

Journalism Excellence Award

  • Órla Ryan -
  • Mark Hilliard & Sorcha Pollack  - The Irish Times
  • Colm Keena - The Irish Times

Young Humanitarian Award

  • Jay Bobinac - Tiglin
  • Dan Khan - Trinity College
  • Hannah Leonard - Localise Youth Volunteers

Innovation For Change Award

  • Cian Ó Maidín - NearForm
  • Colin Keogh, David Pollard & Conall Laverty - Team OSV
  • Irish Emergency Alliance ( IEA)

Digital Influence Award

  • Suad Al Darra -
  • Ellen Ward  - Tech For Good
  • Alma Jordan -

Corporate Impact Award

  • Nestlé Ireland
  • Irish Dairy Farming Industry
  • Aviva Ireland