Brennan—Muireann Brennan, 62, on November 5, 2022, at home in Atlanta, Ga. Muireann was born on November 21, 1959, to Louis and Dimphne Brennan in Dublin, Ireland. Muireann grew up in Donnybrook, the eldest of eight children. She attended St. Anne’s Secondary School in Milltown, after which she studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin. She graduated in 1985, then completed a doctorate in medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Muireann moved to the United States to complete a master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, Md.
Muireann said that her desire to work in overseas emergency and humanitarian medicine was sparked by her experience in northern Kenya as a third-year student at RCSI. At the time, she was studying tropical medicine and participated in an elective to work at a mission hospital in Pokot, Kenya. A later stint working as the only doctor in a Catholic Mission hospital in Turkana, Kenya, confirmed her interest in overseas work.
Muireann joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1996, first as an epidemic intelligence service officer and later as a medical epidemiologist in the emergency response and recovery branch in the CDC’s Division of Global Health Protection. Muireann had more than 25 years of experience with CDC responding to complex humanitarian emergencies across the globe. She traveled in the most austere settings to ensure that underserved populations were reached. Among her accomplishments, she led an evaluation of the emergency health system in Darfur, Sudan; coordinated vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Somalia, and South Sudan; and served as medical coordinator for more than one million refugees in Syria and Sierra Leone.
A colleague at the CDC said, “When there was a tough place to be and a difficult job to do, we’d send Muireann. She was a physically small Irish woman who was tough, brave, and presented herself unambiguously.”
In 2016, Muireann took the role of epidemiologist and medical officer for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Emergency Programmes in Geneva, Switzerland, where she lived for about three years. She helped coordinate efforts of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF during complex humanitarian emergencies.
After moving to Atlanta, Ga., Muireann attended Atlanta Meeting and became a member in 2006. She served on the Care and Counsel and the Ministry and Worship committees, and participated in a spiritual nurture group and adult religious education classes. In 2010 and 2012, for the meeting’s ongoing spiritual stories project, she described her journey from Catholicism to Quakerism, being drawn by the belief of God’s Light in everyone and the challenge to live a life of equality, community, and integrity. She described her love of walking through refugee camps, buying coffee from women, and connecting despite language differences. Muireann’s wisdom and compassion are exemplified by her advice, “How will people believe that you care about 500,000 people if they cannot see that you care about one?!”
Throughout her life, Muireann remained in touch with her family. She always reserved the month of December to be in Dublin. Family members recall her great sense of humor and her sense of adventure.
Muireann was due to retire at the end of January 2023 and had plans to return to live in Ireland at the time of her death.
Murieann is survived by her mother, Dimphne Brennan; seven siblings, Seumas, Seosamh, Dan, Bríd, Lúghaidh, Ailbhe, and Dimphne; and many nieces and nephews.