PHILADELPHIA, PA (OCTOBER 28, 2015) - Decorated humanitarian and outspoken advocate for women's rights, Dr. Denis Mukwege, will receive the 2016 Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women's Health for his work in treating and highlighting the plight of women in the war-torn eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The award comes with a $100,000 cash prize. Mukwege will receive the honor during an event at the University of Pennsylvania on March 24, 2016.
The eastern part of the DRC has been mired in regional warfare - since the late 1990s - resulting in more than five million deaths, brought about by disease, hunger and violence. Militias and rebels terrorize the region's women and children - from infants to the elderly - with mass rape and sexual violence. Fear of being victimized renders women unable to farm and feed their families, so they flee. Their destination for years has been Bukavu, a city in the region. This migration over the years has created a health care crisis. In the past 15 years, the population of Bukavu has swelled from 250,000 people to more than one million.
This crisis attracted the attention of Dr. Mukwege, a trained obstetrician and gynecologist, who lives and works there. In 1999, he established the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, offering much-needed health care to women. The hospital has become known worldwide for the treatment of survivors of sexual violence and women with severe gynecological problems. Mukwege and his staff have performed reconstructive gynecological surgery on more than 21,000 females injured as a consequence of war, including those subjected to rape. He also established a nurses training program, the Institute de Techniques Medicales de Panzi, to provide education and clinical training to about 50 nurses per year, so that the standard of clinical care can be maintained.
"The Renfield Award is given to an individual who demonstrates leadership in improving women's health. Dr. Mukwege embodies the essence of this award in his tireless and courageous efforts to deliver health care and other social services to women in an area that has seen far too much violence," said Antonia Villarruel, PhD, FAAN, Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "Dr. Mukwege has been their voice for justice, not only in this region, but across the world".
Mukewege also founded the Panzi Foundation, a sister organization to Panzi Hospital, in 2008. The Foundation houses projects dedicated to improvement in access to quality maternal and reproductive care, promotion of women's rights and gender equality, and programs to prevent violence against women and children. These programs include: long-term rehabilitation care, therapeutic and legal counseling, free antiretroviral therapy, job skills training, math and literacy classes, small business loans, and scholarships. In 2013, Mukwege co-founded the International Center for Advanced Research and Training in Bukavu, whose mission focuses on infrastructure support to retain the best and the brightest of Congolese scholars.
Mukwege was nominated by Janis M. Miller, PhD, RN, APRN, FAAN, associate professor, University of Michigan School of Nursing, who stated, ""Dr. Mukwege has been a strong and dedicated voice in drawing the world's attention to the urgent needs of women and girls. He calls for an end to sexual violence in war-torn regions throughout the world, especially for the conflict-based rape in eastern DRC." He has addressed the United Nations General Assembly on this subject, and travels around the globe raising awareness of the issue in the eastern DRC.
Mukwege is the co-author of several publications advancing the science of obstetric and gynecologic issues related to sexual violence. His work and research has been honored with many international awards including: the Sakharov Prize (2014); the Right Livelihood Award (2013); the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society (2011); The Wallenberg Medal (2010); Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur (2009); Olof Palme Prize (2009) United Nations Human Rights Prize (2008) and the Special Human Rights Prize (2007). For his work on the continent, Mukwege was named African of the Year in 2009, a year in which he was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
About the Award
The Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women's Health was established in 2012 by the Beatrice Renfield Foundation. This award and prize is presented biennially to a leader, or leaders, in the field of global women's health. The goals of the Award include raising awareness of global women's health issues, supporting multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing global women's health issues, and rewarding innovative strategies designed to deal with pressing issues for women. The Beatrice Renfield Foundation is led by Jean Renfield-Miller, PAR'15. The Foundation is named after Jean's sister, who devoted years of service and resources as an advocate for the nursing profession.
Editor's Note: For high-resolution images of Dr. Mukwege, or to arrange advanced interviews, please contact Ed Federico in Penn Nursing's Office of Marketing & Communications.
About the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
The University Of Pennsylvania School Of Nursing is one of the world's leading schools of nursing and is ranked the #1 graduate nursing school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Penn Nursing is consistently among the nation's top recipients of nursing research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through research, education, and practice.