Pioneering tobacco control advocate receives honorary degree

Dr. Judith Mackay receives honorary doctorate from the University of EdinburghDr. Judith Mackay, one of the world’s leading advocates for tobacco control, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh on Friday, July 1, 2016. Dr. Mackay is an alumnus of the university, having received her medical degree there in 1966.

Dr. Mackay is widely known for her tireless advocacy for tobacco control measures. She has advised numerous governments, NGOs and international organizations on implementing policies to protect people from tobacco’s harms.

A highlight of her work is the implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first international treaty on public health. Dr. Mackay served as a senior policy advisor to that body and helped shape the treaty, bringing it from concept to reality.

“My medical degree has taken me in unimaginable directions,” Mackay said. “I found myself in pitched battle with one of the most powerful commercial companies in the world. It has been a particular honor to be identified by the transnational tobacco companies as one of the three most dangerous people in the world!”

Dr. Judith Mackay

University of Edinburgh professors Amanda Amos and Raj Bhopal, through the Centre for Population Health Sciences (CPHS) and Usher Institute, nominated Dr. Mackay for the honorary doctorate in recognition of her contribution to tobacco control worldwide.

“She undertook an international tobacco control odyssey fueled by passion, anger and to quote TIME Magazine, ‘a profound desire to do good for others.’ Her method was direct: persuade leaders to enact laws, policies, and strategies to tackle legalized health terrorism by the tobacco corporations looking to exploit the vast markets of the East, especially women, who were low consumers of tobacco.  The method was public health in its purest and most effective form,” Professor Bhopal said.

“I understand this is only the second time in living memory that such a prestigious degree has been awarded by Edinburgh University to someone working in public health, a wonderful (re-)recognition of both the importance and the political nature of prevention,” Mackay said. “The tobacco epidemic, and other NCD epidemics, will never be solved in the corridors of hospitals, but in the corridors of power.”

During her more than three decades-long career in Southeast Asia and throughout the world, Dr. Mackay has received many international rewards, including the WHO Commemorative Medal and the first BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007 she was recognized as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 people who shape the world.

After receiving her medical degree from the University of Edinburgh, Mackay became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh and London. She also established the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control in Hong Kong.

Dr. Mackay continues her work as the Senior Advisor for Tobacco Control at Vital Strategies (formerly the World Lung Foundation) and a Senior Policy Advisor within the World Health Organization. In addition, she holds professorships at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and is a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing.

Professor Bhopal’s laureation address for Dr. Mackay >>

An interview with Dr. Judith Mackay, August 2016 >>