Sir Michael Wood

Mike Wood was born in 1919. He was educated at Winchester College at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School of London, where he became a surgeon. Michael an imposing six foot plus in height but had the slightly hunched shoulders of an asthmatic. It was this chronic illness and his wife Lady Susan Wood’s roots in Africa that prompted them to sail to Kenya with their children in 1948. Sue’s family, the Buxtons, were missionaries. She had been born in what was then known as the Congo and carried in a litter as a small baby on a six-month journey to the Nile.


Following Sir Archibald’s death, Dr. Michael Wood and other doctors he had co-opted were flying to mission hospitals deep in Tanzania and Kenya to perform rounds of surgery on critical cases. Mike had established a good relationship with the Tanzania authorities and was able to fly to destinations without being cleared through customs and immigration. This saved hours of flying time, but even so the trips were arduous.


The first professional pilot was hired in 1961, but Mike continued to fly his own plane. He routinely flew to three and a half hours to reach a hospital then operated until just short of midnight. The following day he was in the theatre again until late afternoon before flying on to the next hospital. On the return home, the doctors accompanying him would be asleep before they had reached 10,000 feet while Mike had to navigate across Africa, often through stormy weather.


Mike Wood continued to work as a surgeon for AMREF as well as the Medical Director. In 1983 Mike Wood announced he was retiring from AMREF first Director General, vowing not to make the mistake of hanging around when he was no longer needed. Soon after his retirement, Mike fell ill with cancer.

Wood’s regrets on his retirement;  “I would have liked to see our field staff in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, wherever we operate, run their own show, choose their own projects and arrange overseas finance. Too much at present is concentrated in Nairobi, although as the Foundation’s headquarters, Nairobi should remain in overall control of policy. But I should have encouraged greater delegation.”


On May 16, 1987 Sir Michael Wood, CBE, MBBS, FRCS, Founder and Director General, died. His wife Sue continued to give AMREF moral support, radiating an inspirational serenity and strength that remained with her until her death in 2006.


Other Highlights of Sir Michael Wood

  • Born: January 28, 1919, Guildford, England

  • Education: Winchester College 1932-34 further studies in Switzerland and Austria. Studies Architecture for two years at Oxford. Entered Middlesex Hospital Medical School of London University 1938.

  • Qualified: MRCS, LRCP 1943, MBBS London 1944, FRCS England 1946.

  • In 1966 Dr Michael Wood was invited to University of California Los Angeles as a visiting professor in plastic surgery

  • In 1970 Dr Michael Wood was awarded a distinguished service medal. Medal presented by Vice-Chancellor of the University Nairobi Dr. J. N. Karanja

  • In March 1972, Dr Wood appeared in “This is your Life” TV programme in London where he also attended the Royal Premiere of “The Cowboys” which raised £10,000.

  • In 1976 Mr and Mrs Monnier of Switzerland along with Dr. Michael Wood were presented to H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Monnier recognized for his leprosy work

  • Dr Wood attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace and received from H.M. Queen Elizabeth the CBE award in 1977 New Year Honours for service to medicine

  • In 1978 Michael Wood published “Go an Extra Mile”