Recipients of the Royal College Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award
The Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award recognizes doctors who make truly exceptional sacrifices, often while exposing themselves to personal risk. These remarkable physicians forgo the benefits, comforts and supports of working in Canada to bring hope and health to less-developed pockets of the world.
Dr. Rob Fowler is the 2017 recipient of the Royal College’s Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award. He took time off from his day job as a critical care physician to donate a year to the mission of the World Health Organization (WHO). Little did he know that he would be one of the first international physicians to arrive in West Africa in March 2014 on the threshold of the Ebola outbreak to help care for patients with Ebola Virus Disease.
Working alongside national and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health care workers at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, Rob and his colleagues pushed for new clinical protocols for the care of patients with Ebola Virus Disease, which was historically associated with a 70 to 90 per cent mortality rate. They focused on a much more aggressive, supportive method of care than had commonly been delivered to these patients. This is the kind of care that we take for granted in Canada — fluid resuscitation for severe dehydration, and support for electrolyte abnormalities and organ dysfunctions that accompany critical illness. Rob and his colleagues showed the world that these strategies would help patients survive Ebola Virus Disease long enough for their own body to clear the virus.
While Rob’s role in West Africa was primarily to help care for patients, as a University of Toronto researcher, he also understood that clinical anecdote and opinion is easily ignored until it’s transformed into a hypothesis that is investigated, reviewed and put into print. In Africa, he pushed for ethics oversight of clinical data collection in the first treatment units, alongside clinical care.
At the onset of the outbreak, the mortality rate in West Africa was almost 80 per cent. With advocacy for more active clinical care from affected countries, new management guidelines, a growing African Ebola clinical team and response from the international community, access to care improved and the mortality rate dropped to under 40 per cent. Among the patients treated in European and American hospitals and critical care units with aggressive organ-supporting care, mortality dropped further — to less than 20 per cent, meaning that up to 80 per cent of people with Ebola Virus Disease now survived!
James Orbinski, OC, OOnt, MSc, BSc, MD, MCFP, MA
Dr. James Orbinski is an internationally recognized humanitarian practitioner and advocate, and a leading scholar in global health.
After extensive field experience with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — including as mission head during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide — he was elected MSF’s international president from 1998 to 2001. In 1999, he launched the organization’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign and that same year accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of MSF. From 2001-2004, he co-chaired MSF’s Neglected Diseases Working Group that created and launched the successful Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. In 2004, he co-founded Dignitas International.
Dr. Orbinski was a founding board member of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Canadian Doctors for Medicare. He was a founding member of the editorial boards of Open Medicine and Conflict and Health. He is the author of the award-winning book, An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarianism in the 21st Century, and the subject of the acclaimed documentary, Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma.
Dr. Orbinski is currently a professor in the School of International Policy and Governance at Wilfrid Laurier University, and the CIGI Chair in Global Health Governance at the university’s Balsillie School of International Affairs. He is also a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.
He earned his medical degree from McMaster University in 1990 and held a Medical Research Council of Canada fellowship to study pediatric HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. That experience fuelled his efforts to help establish the Canadian chapter of MSF. In 1998, he earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto.
Dr. Dan Poenaru, Ethiopia
- To watch an inspiring video on Dr. Poenaru’s work, visit the Royal College Youtube page.
Dr. Joanne Liu, Montréal
- To watch an inspiring video on Dr. Liu’s work, visit the Royal College Youtube page.
Dr. Robert H. Taylor, Vancouver
Dr. Ken Foster, Kabul, Afghanistan
Dr. Stephen James Foster, Huila, Angola
Dr. Jean Chamberlain, Hamilton
Dr. Paul Thistle, Zimbabwe
About Drs. Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti
This award is named in honour of Dr. Lucille Teasdale, and Dr. Piero Corti, a physician couple who devoted their professional careers to healing, teaching and improving the condition of the population residing in the poverty-stricken Gulu region of Uganda. For 35 years the couple served in this region, characterized by frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases, and provided medical care throughout nearly 25 years of Ugandan civil war and unrest. Their medical and surgical skills saved thousands of lives. Their teachings instilled hope for a better future in many. Their perseverance transformed a small missionary dispensary into the St. Mary’s-Lacor Hospital, which is now a modern teaching hospital and medical centre almost entirely staffed by Ugandan health care professionals.
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