The University of Nairobi (UoN) College of Health Sciences (CHS) played host to the funeral service for Prof. Francis Plummer, a renowned HIV researcher from Canada.

Prof. Plummer died on 4th February, 2020 in Nairobi. He was visiting Kenya to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the University of Manitoba and University of Nairobi research collaboration he helped to establish.

Born and educated in Canada, Prof. Plummer first came to Kenya in 1981 as a post-doctorate fellow studying sexually transmitted diseases. Working with colleagues from Kenya, Canada, the USA and Europe, he and his team were among the first to identify the HIV virus in the country, and their work over the subsequent years revealed much of what is now known about the natural history of HIV in Africa. His team also described the presence in Kenya of a group of female sex workers who were resistant to HIV.

With faculty appointments at both the University of Manitoba and University of Nairobi, Prof. Plummer lived in Kenya from 1982 until 2001, when he returned to Canada to be the Scientific Director of the Public Health Laboratories of Canada. As the Director, he led the SARS epidemic response besides helping develop a vaccine against the Ebola virus. He was among Canada’s leading scientists and won numerous international awards besides being made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006.

During his farewell service at CHS on 14th February, 2020, Prof. Plummer was described as an extraordinary bridge builder between universities, communities and different eras.  

Here in Kenya at the College of Health Sciences, UoN; UNITID and KAVI-ICR are two institutions he dreamed of and he was an active participant in their creation, they came to be during his tenure and will live on as a true testimony of his good works.

“He opened our eyes and broadened our horizons, he was generous made friends across all social structures, he taught us that there is nothing weak about kindness” said Prof. Ruth Nduati, a lecturer in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Prof. Plummer received numerous accolades for his work, including receiving the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours, and the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, which recognises scientists whose work has had a significant impact on health outcomes in the developing world.