In April 2016, ACOG Honorary Fellow Denis Mukwege was named one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’. The magazine recognized Dr. Mukwege for his work as the founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which specializes in the treatment of women who have been gang-raped by rebel forces.
Mukwege has become the world's leading expert on how to repair the internal physical and psychological damage caused by brutal sexual violence. His outstanding work as a pioneer for women’s health has earned him a place on Time’s list of most influential people. He joins the ranks of notable icons such as Hillary Clinton, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Caitlyn Jenner, Raj Panjabi, and Barak Obama.
ACOG recognized Dr. Mukwege as Honorary Fellow at ACOG’s 2015 Annual Clinical Meeting in San Francisco for his work in response to sexual and gender-based violence and as an advocate for the rights and empowerment of Congolese women.
Born the third of nine children, Mukwege studied medicine at the University of Burundi and later went to France to study gynecology at the University of Angers. In 1999, he founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the South Kivu region of the DRC. The hospital specializes in treating survivors of violence, the large majority of whom have been sexually abused.
Jill Biden, in her profile of Mukwege on Time Magazine’s website, aptly describes his passion for women’s health care. She writes, “The son of a Pentecostal pastor, he is guided by the Hippocratic oath and an indomitable commitment to justice on his own mission to save these communities one woman at a time.”
Dr. Mukwege has received many awards, including the United Nations Human Rights Prize (New York, 2008) African of the Year (Nigeria, 2009), France’s Legion of Honor (2009), the European Union’s Sakharov Prize, 2014, and three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, to name a few.
A shining example of ACOG’s mission and values, Timothy Johnson, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan, nominated Mukwege in May 2013 for Honorary Fellow. “Denis Mukwege is one of my heroes,” said Dr. Johnson. “The comprehensive, holistic care model he has developed at Panzi Hospital repairs and treats the bodies and minds of broken girls and women. His work is a testament to what a trained and caring obstetrician gynecologist can do to improve the lives of the women he serves, and who now surround him to protect him from those whom would do him harm.”
The scope of Dr. Mukwege’s achievements is breathtaking, and is noted by Biden in her Time Magazine profile of Mukwege: “What Dr. Mukwege and his team at Panzi Hospital do is extraordinary. Theirs is a reality where 48 women in the DRC are raped every hour, according to a 2011 report,” she writes, “They have treated more than 46,000 victims of sexual- and gender-based violence—6-year-olds and octogenarians alike. Beyond healer to these women and girls, Dr. Mukwege is hope.”
Given the prevalence of physician burnout among ob-gyns and physicians as a whole, Mukwege’s passion and works serve as a reminder of why many of us chose the ob-gyn profession. Congratulations to Dr. Mukwege in his continuing endeavors to serve and advocate for women’s health care worldwide.
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