Professor Pate: Global Public Servant @ 52

September 6, 2020

“One of the polio leaders I respect most is Dr Muhammad Pate… I admire him very much. I want to introduce my children to him one day soon” .-  Bill Gate, 2011

A charming and charismatic gentleman to the core, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, is 52 today. A strong leader with unique qualities that inspired many to look up to him as a role model. His humility is astonishing, proud of his identity, globetrotting continents in his simple, yet classy, traditional white jumpa and zannabukar cap.

Despite his simplicity, this man has conquered the world in his field of endeavour, global health.  There are only a few people in this world who have the kind of influence, recognition, reach and expertise he commands in international public (global) health. Not surprising, he is a Professor (and Chair) of the Global Health at the Harvard University as well as the Global Director, Nutrition, Health and Population at the World Bank and Director, Global Financing Facility, the platform for coordinating multilateral financing of health programmes in the world


Professor Pate is a local breed, had his primary and secondary school

education in Bauchi and Barewa College, Zaria, respectively; undertook his undergraduate medical training at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he graduated with Distinctions at the age of 21 years. As a young Doctor, Pate served in his alma mater the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital as well as in Nassarawa Hospital in Kano as a youth corps member. The young talent was identified and picked by the British Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, the Gambia and later moved to the United States where he did residency training in Internal Medicine and subsequent Fellowship training, to qualify as a Consultant in Infectious Diseases, at the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA. He also has two  master’s degrees in Health Financing and Business Administration from the University of London, UK and Duke University, United States respectively.

He joined the World Bank in 2001 as Young Professional/Health Specialist. He was one of the first medical doctors to ever be engaged by the Bank as a young professional, after a fiercely competitive selection process from among thousands of under 30 years high achievers from across the world. While at the Bank, he rose through the ranks to become the Human Development Sector Coordinator, East Asia & Pacific Region within a record-breaking period of 7 years. He led several teams that pioneered health sector reforms in countries in Africa, East Asia and other regions of the World Bank.

One of his initiatives and landmark is the Public Private Partnership projects for the National Referral Hospital in Lesotho in southern Africa. He also contributed to the design of the performance-based financing approach that the Bank subsequently supported in different countries. In Nigeria, it was adopted and implemented as Nigeria State Health Investment Project (NSHIP).

Prof. Pate’s career track re-routed him  home to Nigeria in 2008 when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Aduwa appointed him the Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Healthcare Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). And President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan appointed him Minister of State for Health, 2008-2013. He joined the NPHCDA at the peak of the polio epidemic crisis. Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria, also known as PAIN – where polio exist and could be transmitted to other countries. In June 2009,  Pate initiated a process of engaging respected traditional rulers in the northern Nigeria, where mass rejection of the polio vaccines was highly prevalent, under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto to help improve demand for the vaccines and other primary healthcare services. This engagement laid foundation for an aggressive emergency polio eradication response through the emergency operation centers (EOCs) which  interrupted  and later eradicated polio transmission in Nigeria.

He also pioneered primary healthcare governance and financing reforms otherwise called the Primary Healthcare Under One Roof (PHCUOR) and the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCFP) that was subsequently adopted into the National Healthcare Act. His contribution, vision and strategic leadership in championing these reforms in the Nigerian Primary Healthcare (PHC) space placed him in category of the likes of Professor Olukoye Ransome Kuti and Professor Umaru Shehu.

During his term as the Chief Executive of the NPHCDA, he also led the country to introduce pentavalent vaccine as well as improved vaccine security and coverage of all the EPI antigens. He single-handedly led the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into Nigeria and guided their approach of direct engagement with the State Primary Healthcare Agencies created as a result of the PHCUOR reform. He also pioneered the Midwives’ Service Scheme (MSS) to bridge the huge deficit in the skilled human resource available in PHC centers in rural areas. These interventions, in addition to several projects he implemented such as constructions ofthe PHC centers, renovations and equipping of PHC centers as well as trainings of health workers impacted significantly in reducing the high maternal, child morbidity and mortality in the country.

From 2011 to July 2013 when he was Minister of State, Health, Professor Pate developed some of the most innovative, impactful and most successful public health interventions in Nigeria. He, with his team, created the landmark “Saving One Million Lives” initiative for Nigeria. He also consolidated coalitions, alliances and networks with Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote and the founder of CNN Ted Turner, to help Nigeria battle   polio and measles.

Still within the same period, he mobilized over $1billion in additional financing for PHC, implemented innovative programmes in  Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, enhanced clinical governance and chaired presidential task force on polio eradication.

Professor Pate has received dozens of international awards from world renown entities. He has contributed to over 100 peer reviewed publications in international and reputable journals of medicines and book chapters. He also has served on several national and international expert panels. He was a visiting Professor at the Duke University Global Health Institute 2013-2015; founder and Chairman of the BOT, Chigari Foundation, Nigeria, 2014-2019; Co-chair of Harvard-London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Independent Panel on the Global Ebola Response, Member of Advisory Board, 2014-2015; Merck for Mothers, Merck & Co. USA, 2014 to date; Co- Chair and Founding Board member, Private Sector Health Alliance (PHN) of Nigeria, 2010 to date; Richard L. and Ronay Menschel Senior Leadership Fellowship at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, 2016; He was the CEO, Big Win Philanthropy, from July 31, 2015 to July 2018.

Locally, in recognition of his global leadership in the field of public health, School of Public Health of the Ondo State University for Medical Sciences was named after him in 2018. He currently serves as the Board, Chairman for the institution. He holds several traditional tiles including the Chigari of Misau, the Dan Isah of Ibbi, Wakilin Lafiya of Soro, to mention but a few.

At his 52nd birthday, this remarkable son of Nigeria has already carved a niche for himself in the league of world top renowned international public health figures.

– Yahaya wrote in from Abuja

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