Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate is the Global Director of Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) Global Practice of the World Bank and the Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF) based in Washington, DC. Dr. Pate was, until recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Big Win Philanthropy, based in the UK. Prior to that, he held several senior positions, including Minister of State for Health in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Dr. Pate is an MD trained in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, with an MBA from Duke University. He also has a Master’s in Health System Management from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK. He will assume the role of CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on August 3rd, 2023.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate was born in the Misau local government of Bauchi State in Nigeria. As a young boy, he always had a passion for helping others and determined by this, he was the first in his family to complete a secondary school education. He attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) medical school in Kaduna State, Nigeria, and earned his medical degree. After working in rural hospitals in Gambia, Dr. Pate pursued a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center in the United States. Motivated by his desire to help others, he joined the World Bank Group in 2000 as a Young Professional. While there, Dr. Pate worked on health issues across Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific.
With his relentless determination and hard work, in 2008, Dr. Pate was appointed as the Head of the National Primary Health Care Agency (NPHCDA) in Nigeria, a position he held until 2011. During his tenure, Nigeria was grappling with a polio epidemic. To combat it, Dr. Pate initiated a policy whereby respected leaders in relevant areas helped to promote immunization. Thanks to his efforts, cases of wild poliomyelitis decreased from 803 at the end of 2008 to just 11 in 2010.
Following the National Primary Health Care Agency (NPHCDA) merger with the National Programme on Immunization (NPI), Dr. Pate played a key role in setting a transformation agenda to manage outstanding issues. He also implemented innovative policies, such as training middle management for primary health care and fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors through partnerships. In addition, he developed the Midwives’ Service Scheme (MSS) to address the high maternal and child morbidity and mortality rate in Nigeria. The MSS aimed to ensure that individuals in rural and remote areas received the necessary assistance and care.
In recognition of his success as the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Abuja, Dr. Pate was then appointed Minister of Health in Nigeria in 2011. He oversaw several key initiatives in this capacity, including developing a national health financing strategy and introducing a performance-based financing scheme to improve healthcare delivery. Reflecting on his time as the Minister, he says, “I was opportune to work alongside and lead thousands of volunteers and diligent health workers all over the country when I served in the government between 2008 – 2013. We did amazing things. Some health workers and volunteers lost their lives in the fight against polio. But it was such an honor for me to lead them and the National Honour that was conferred on me; I take it beyond the recognition of my modest contribution; it is, in fact, an honor for all the people that I worked with and led.”
Since leaving the government, Dr. Pate has made significant contributions to the development of healthcare both nationally and globally. He began his post-government career as a professor at Duke University, where he taught future leaders a comparative study of health systems. Dr. Pate also served as the CEO of Big Win Philanthropy, where he led efforts to improve human capital in African countries. Later, he became the Global Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population Practice at the World Bank and the Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women and Children.
Pate says, “I led a fantastic group of health development professionals working in the world’s six regions to improve health systems and contribute to the fight against extreme poverty.” He continued, “Nigeria benefited from the World Bank during my tenure as Global Director. Currently, at Harvard, where I hold a professorship and co-chair the Future of Health and Economic Resilience in Africa, I contribute to building a better future for global public health, including in Nigeria. All my international engagements have been enriched by the experience that I had at home, in Nigeria, during my service in government, and even before then during my education in the country.”
As the Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population of the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility at the World Bank between 2019 and 2021, he led the Bank’s US$ 18 billion COVID-19 global health response. Reflecting on the pandemic, Dr. Pate believes that pandemics have historically catalyzed significant changes in international, regional, and national health systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. “In projecting the future of health, our current pandemic experience is an important marker to start,” he notes. “It has introduced a certain atmosphere accelerating transformations in global health systems.” Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Dr. Pate sees an opportunity for innovation and transformation in the health sector. “I believe that we have an opportunity to use the current crisis to reimagine and rebuild our health systems, to create more equitable, sustainable, and resilient systems that can better serve everyone,” he adds.
Looking forward, Dr. Pate stresses the importance of taking the threat of future pandemics seriously and investing in prevention and preparedness to handle the next serious infectious disease threat better. “The new Pandemic Treaty, when ready, I hope will cement those changes alongside a reformed global financing architecture,” he says.
To strengthen his take on vaccines and promote this global agenda, Dr. Pate will assume the role of CEO of Gavi on August 3rd, 2023. An international organization lauded for efforts to further the vaccination movement and provide vaccines to the most remote corners of the world. “I’m deeply honored to join Gavi as its incoming CEO,” he stated. “Gavi is one of the most impactful organizations in global health, a testament to the great work of the Alliance partners and Secretariat staff. It will be my privilege to lead it, building on the work of Dr. Seth Berkley.”
Dr. Pate’s leadership will ensure that Gavi remains a vital player in the global health movement, expanding access to routine immunization programs and new vaccines and transforming primary healthcare systems. Under his guidance, the world can look forward to a healthy future.