Elinor Catherine Hamlin (née Nicholson), AC, MBBS, FRCS, FRANZCOG, FRCOG (24 January 1924 - 18 March 2020), was an Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist who, with her husband, New Zealander Dr. Reginald Hamlin, co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the world's only medical centre dedicated exclusively to providing free obstetric fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from childbirth injuries. They also co-founded an associated non-profit organisation, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
Hamlin has been recognised by the United Nations agency UNFPA as a pioneer in fistula surgery for her development of techniques and procedures for obstetric fistula treatment. The Hamlins, together with the hospital staff, have treated more than 55,000 women to date for obstetric fistula.
1 Family and education
2 Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital
4.1 Catherine Hamlin
4.2 Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital
6 External links
Family and education
Elinor Catherine Nicholson was raised in the Sydney suburb of Ryde, at "The Hermitage", built by John Blaxland in 1842. One of six children of Elinor and Theodore Nicholson, she went to Frensham School in Mittagong, before attending the University of Sydney and graduating from its Medical School in 1946.
After internships at St Joseph's Hospital, Auburn, and St George's Hospital, Kogarah, she became a resident in obstetrics at Crown Street Women's Hospital. In 1950, she married Dr Reginald Hamlin, medical superintendent at Crown Street.
Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital
Main article: Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital
Three trainee midwives with Catherine Hamlin at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital
In 1958 the Hamlins answered an advertisement placed by the Ethiopian government in The Lancet medical journal for an obstetrician and gynaecologist to establish a midwifery school at the Princess Tsehay Hospital in Addis Ababa.
They arrived in 1959 with their six-year-old son, Richard. The Hamlins had never seen an obstetric fistula before — they were an "academic rarity" having been virtually eradicated in the United States in 1895. (The first fistula hospital closed its doors in New York City in 1925.) Seeing many cases arrive at the school, they decided to create a dedicated hospital. Fifteen years later, in 1974, they founded Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and over the years, the hospital has treated more than 45,000 patients.
Hamlin still lived in her cottage on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and remained very active in the day-to-day work of the hospital and patient care up until her death. Reg Hamlin was actively involved in the activities of the hospital and was a member of its Board of Trustees until his death in 1993.
Hamlin meets The Queen at Government House, Canberra in 2011
Hamlin has been awarded honorary fellowships in the medical associations of Australia, England and the United States. On 26 January 1983, she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to gynaecology in developing countries and on 26 January 1995, Hamlin was awarded Australia's highest honour, being promoted to the grade of Companion of the Order of Australia.
On 1 January 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for "long and outstanding service to international development in Africa". She is the author of the best-selling book, The Hospital by the River: A Story of Hope, first published in 2001. A second edition was published in 2016 with a foreword by Dame Quentin Bryce. She has been described as a modern-day "Mother Teresa" in an editorial by Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.
Aged 80, Hamlin appeared on Oprah Winfrey's television show in January 2004. The episode was included in Winfrey's 20-year anthology collection. Winfrey travelled to the hospital and filmed another episode for her show, broadcast in December 2005. The 2007 documentary, "A Walk to Beautiful" featured five Ethiopian women who were treated and cured by Hamlin and her team at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
In 2009 she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also called the "Alternate Nobel Prize".
Hamlin was among 50 prominent Australians invited by the Governor-General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce, to take lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Government House, Canberra on 23 October 2011.
In November 2016 a Sydney Ferries Emerald-class ferry was named Catherine Hamlin.
Both Hamlin and her hospital have received numerous awards. Known for her dedication and humility, Hamlin said of the plaudits she received that "I'm doing what I love doing and it's not a hardship for me to be working in Ethiopia with these women".
1971 Haile Selassie Humanitarian Prize
1983 Member of the Order of Australia
1984 ANZAC Peace Prize
1987 Gold Medal of Merit, Order of St. Gregory the Great
1989Honorary Gold Medal, Royal College of Surgeons
1995 Companion of the Order of Australia
1996 Zonta International Award, International Honorary Member
1998 Rotary Award for World Understanding and Peace, Rotary International
1999 Nominee, Nobel Peace Prize
2001 Centenary Medal, The Order of Australia Association
2003 Honorary Fellow, American College of Surgeons
2004 National Living Treasure of Australia, National Trust of Australia
2004 Best Practices in Global Health, Global Health Council
2005 Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
2005 Doctor of Medicine Honoris causa, University of Sydney
2006 Doctorate of Law, Honoris causa, University of Dundee
2006 Honorary Fellow of the Australian College of Educators
2009 Gold Medal, World Association for Sexual Health
2009 Right Livelihood Award, Stockholm, Sweden
2010 Honorary Doctorate, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, "People to People", Ethiopia
2010 Achievement Award, (International Women's Day), President of Ethiopia
2012 Honorary Ethiopian Citizenship, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
2014 Nominee, Nobel Peace Prize
2015 AMA Presidents Award - Australian Medical Association
2017 United Nations Association of Australia Lifework Award 2017
2017 Winner of "Yebego Sew" yearly Ethiopian Prize for the life time best achievements of Foreigners who devotes their life for the well-being of fellow Ethiopians
2017 Named NSW Senior of the Year 2018
2017 Sydney Ferry Named the Catherine Hamlin in honour of Dr Hamlin
Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital
2004 United Nations Population Award – United Nations Population Fund
2004 Dr Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Global Health Initiative, American Medical Association
2007 The Best Humanitarian and Social Service in Ethiopia – President of Ethiopia His Excellency Ato Girma Wolde-Giorgis
About cookies on this site
ALLOW ALL COOKIES