Guest Blog: Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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18 October 2017

MWIA´s president elect, Dr. Clarissa Fabre visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa.

I recently visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. It was an inspiring experience. Founded in 1974 by Drs Catherine and Reginald Hamlin, it now has 5 satellite sites in Ethiopia as well as the main hospital in Addis Ababa. Young girls in rural Ethiopia often marry in their teens, are poorly nourished, have poorly supervised pregnancies, develop obstructed labour, form fistulae between vagina and bladder or between vagina and rectum. They leak urine or faeces, they smell, are consequently rejected by their husbands, and become social outcasts. They walk miles to get to medical care. At the Fistula Hospital, they are strengthened and nourished, their fistulas are repaired, and they are rehabilitated. Some of them become nursing assistants when they are well again, and help with the care of future patients.

It is astonishing that around 4000 patients with fistulae are still treated each year (the phenomenon is virtually unknown in high income countries). The problem is poor access to medical care in labour, and especially access to caesarian sections if indicated (in rural communities 90% of births are outside a healthcare facility). The Hamlin Fistula Hospital now trains 20 midwives each year on a four year degree course. The midwives come from these poor rural communities and will return there once their course is completed.

How could MWF become involved with the Fistula Hospital? All treatment for these girls is free of charge. They arrive at the hospital as social outcasts after days of walking. Once their treatment is complete, each girl is discharged with a clean new dress and a bus ticket home. What a transformation! Charities in the U.K (, Australia, Canada and the US are very successful in raising funds. Our members, who are trained uro-gynaecologists might consider a placement as volunteers.fitsula hospital clarissa

The Hamlin Fistula Hospital is a wonderful oasis of medical care. It is set among trees and flowers, the staff are dedicated to holistic care. Dr Catherine Hamlin is now 93 years old (her husband died over 20 years ago) and she lives on site. She is known as 'the mother of all mothers' and has created a unique centre of excellent medical care, combined with a loving and caring environment. I would highly recommend that MWF supports the whole concept in any way that we can.


Dr Clarissa Fabre

Past president MWF
MWIA president-elect
MWIA representative to WHO

'Women in Medicine – a Celebration' Exhibition at the RCP

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09 October 2017

 parveen exhibition

2017-18 is Women in Medicine Year, marking the 100th anniversary of the Medical Women’s Federation and the first time in history that the majority of the world-renowned medical royal colleges have been led by women.

'Women in medicine: a celebration’ is a free exhibition of specially commissioned photographic portraits honouring the contribution of women, past and present, to medicine. Twenty-six medical organisations, including all the medical royal colleges, have collaborated to put together the exhibition, which can be visited at the Royal College of Physicians (London) until 19th January 2018.

Modern day women in medicine were asked to nominate women from the history of medicine who inspired them. MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar nominated Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 1917.

Further information can be located on the RCP website here.

BBC Woman's Hour Celebrates 100 Years of the MWF

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09 October 2017

2017 marks the centenary of the Medical Women's Federation. To celebrate, BBC Woman's Hour spoke to leading female clinicians about the women from medical history who inspired them.

MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar discussed the work of Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 2017. The important question of why women doctors still need support to fully achieve equality is discussed, along with the lasting relevance of the Medical Women's Federation in 2017 and beyond.

You can listen to the inspiring interview here.


rcp parveen

Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians



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