The famous Congolese gynecologist – renowned for treating wartime survivors of rape – comes to the School of Public Health, agrees to exchanges and training programs, and is awarded an honorary PhD.
Université de Montréal was honoured today to welcome 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege to its School of Public Health (ESPUM).
The renowned African gynaecologist shared the extensive experience he has acquired in his homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting sexual violence against women and children in war and armed conflicts, and afterwards signed a collaboration agreement with UdeM’s rector, Dr. Guy Breton.
More than 200 people were on hand for the event. Administrators, professors, students and members of the public had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mukwege during a discussion period moderated by ESPUM dean Dr. Réjean Hébert.
New exchanges and projects
Founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern DRC, Dr. Mukwege chairs a non-profit organization called the Panzi Foundation DRC. The agreement with UdeM links the foundation with five UdeM faculties – medicine, nursing, law, arts and sciences, and the ESPUM – through exchanges and research and training projects.
Doctors, nurses and researchers, along with social workers, health-care managers, lawyers and economists, will train at UdeM and do internships in Montreal or back home in the DRC. In this way, the university will combine its training and research expertise with Dr. Mukwege’s to support victims of sexual violence.
“Faced with the violence experienced by women and children in Dr. Mukwege’s homeland, we cannot remain indifferent,” said Dr. Breton. “And the collaboration agreement we are signing today with the Panzi Foundation DRC is our promise that Université de Montréal will not remain indifferent.”
“By mobilizing to support the people who are making a difference on the ground, we can help extend Dr. Mukwege’s work to other regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo and even to other countries in francophone Africa,” he added.
'A great relief'
"This is a great moment for me," said Dr. Mukwege. "For several years now, when talking to audiences, I've always tried to think about the best way to mobilize scientists, especially in relation to what is happening in the DRC.
"Dr. Breton has mentioned the possibility of two French-speaking countries collaborating, asking real questions about these phenomena we are experiencing and providing answers and solutions for a better world. It's a great relief to hear it."
‘Culmination of years of work’
ESPUM professor Dr. Marie Hatem will coordinate UdeM’s activities with Panzi Hospital and the Panzi Foundation DRC. Long active in francophone Africa, under Dr. Mukwege’s sponsorship she and her research team develop and run training programs in hospitals and other health-care centres that work with women.
“The agreement today is the culmination of years of work,” said Dr. Hatem. “I’m happy to be able to count on the university and my colleagues from other faculties. With our combined expertise, we can contribute to developing the hospital and the Panzi Foundation DRC for the well-being of women and children.”
An honorary doctorate
As part of his visit today, Dr. Mukwege will receive an honorary doctorate at UdeM’s PhD graduation ceremony. The afternoon event will take place on campus at the Ernest-Cormier Amphitheatre.
“An honorary doctorate is the highest distinction a university can bestow,” said Dr. Breton.
“In awarding him this distinction, we welcome Dr. Mukwege to the broader UdeM community. He is truly larger than life, and for UdeM graduates he represents an amazing example of courage and humanism.”
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