Dr Catherine Hamlin (AC) awarded
On Tuesday 15th March, the University of Sydney conferred the degree of Doctor of Medicine honoris causa on Dr Catherine Hamlin (AC) at the Great Hall in recognition of her work at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.
In a special ceremony Dr Hamlin’s was the only graduation of the day. Opening remarks and welcome were given by Chancellor, the Hon Justice Kim Santow, OAM, followed by a citation by Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Gavin Brown, FAA. Following the conferral of the degree of Doctor of Medicine, Dr Hamlin was warmly introduced by Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Andrew Coats.
Dr Hamlin then took the stage to speak of her life’s work in front of an audience of over 500 family, friends, alumni, students and members of Faculty.
A few short years after graduating from the University of Sydney MBBS, Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband, Reginald, both obstetricians, arrived in Ethiopia and quickly became acutely aware of the plight of so many of Ethiopia's young women. In this poverty-stricken country where the lack of medical facilities, poor roads and inaccessible terrain, make it extremely difficult for expectant mothers to reach a hospital, thousands of women suffer agonising labours and the death of their babies and then, because of fistulae, are ostracised by their families.
Dr Hamlin has restored hope to more than 20,000 women though her work. The Hamlins revived and perfected the long abandoned surgical technique for obstetric fistula and worked for more than a decade to establish the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1975. Dr Reg Hamlin died 1993 but Catherine continues to work in Ethiopia.
"Never for a moment have I felt like retiring, or wanted to change my life or my work. I still operate several times a week, and my hands are as steady as ever. Although most of my life has been spent working for fistula patients, the fascination and appeal has never palled. People sometimes express surprise that I could be satisfied doing the same thing for so long, but the work has never been a burden or a chore," said Dr Hamlin.
Following Dr Hamlin’s presentation, attendees were invited to cocktails in the Quadrangle which were generously sponsored by the Faculty of Medicine.