#TheScoop: The price of pursuing passion – Dr. Teguest Guerma

January 22, 2015
Dr. Teguest Guerma,  Director General of AMREF
Dr. Teguest Guerma, Director General of AMREF

, Dr. Teguest Guerma has had an illustrious and adventurous career spanning over 25 years in public health.  Her journey to be a medical doctor is a story of determination and resilience. After being denied admission to study medicine in France, Dr. Guerma applied to many universities across the world and finally got an admission from a University in Senegal where she worked odd jobs including as a hostess and language translator for one of the government ministers.

She later moved to Burundi with her husband and got a job in one of the public hospitals at a time when HIV/AIDS was just emerging in the continent.

Dr. Guerma’s determination to highlight the existence and effects of AIDS in Burundi saw her come in direct conflict with the Director of Health Services who was equally determined to conceal the disease that was ravaging patients.

“The worst thing was to see patients die like flies but we would do nothing. So I couldn’t stand that so I decided to quit,” says Dr. Guerma.

She had to leave her young children and traverse the continent collecting data on HIV and developing a mid-term plan for all the countries.

Dr. Guerma says taking risk is at the heart of pursuing something you strongly believe in and encourages women in Africa “to take the risk and be ambitious.”

Dr. Teguest Guerma is currently the Director General of AMREF, an International non-governmental organization working in Health Development. Prior to that, she was the Associate Director, and later the Acting Director of the Global HIV and AIDS Department of the WHO in Geneva.

She has extensive experience at country, regional and global level in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US. She served as the WHO Africa representative to UN Headquarters, New York and the WHO representative in Nepal and Botswana.

Dr. Guerma co-led the WHO 3×5 Initiative, which made Anti-Retroviral treatment available to developing countries. Dr. Guerma started her career as a medical practitioner in Burundi in the mid-1980s and holds a Medical Doctor degree with a post-graduate degree in Infectious Diseases and a certificate of Epidemiology.

Dr. Guerma is an Ethiopian National and a mother of two children.

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