Edna Adan Ismail is honored to have been awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Pennsylvania at UPenn’s 258th commencement ceremony and she has been named the inaugural recipient of the Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health from UPenn’s Nursing School which includes a grant in the amount of $100,000 in support of her work to improve healthcare for women in the Horn of Africa.
The Renfield Award recognizes demonstrated leaders whose work has had significant impact in improving the lives and health of women and comes at the conclusion of the Healthy Cities: Healthy Women Conference Series which aims to promote discussions about re-envisioning our communities to make them universally safer, healthier and more livable.
Penn Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis – herself a trailblazer in global women’s health issues – presented the award to Edna who went on to describe to those assembled the devastation in Somaliland following the brutal civil war which left some 95% of homes, hospitals, and schools in ruins.
“My country Somaliland has known every tragedy – I see the devastation. Women lag behind in education, jobs, economic development, and political empowerment. Women in Somaliland die of hemorrhage, eclampsia, puerperal infection, and obstructed labor and 1 in 15 women will risk dying of pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. There is no other option but to do what you can to help. My choice is to do whatever I can for as long as I can. These preventable deaths that kill our mothers have haunted me for years and have compelled me to take matters into my own hands.”
As she does at every opportunity, Edna spoke passionately of her greatest single goal: To train 1000 community midwives.
In Edna’s closing marks to Penn Nursing Sciences graduates on May 19, Edna gave praise to her hospital staff and volunteers for their compassion in providing care to patients. “I for one am humbled by this honor and accept it on behalf of the staff of my hospital and university who make me so proud because it is they who are caring for the sick, it is they who are educating our youth, and it is they who are helping me prove to the world the importance and determination to succeed under difficult circumstances – even in a poor country like Somaliland which does not even exist on your maps.”
The mission of the Beatrice Renfield Foundation is to raise awareness of global women’s health issues, support multi-disciplinary approaches to address global women’s health issues, and to reward innovative strategies designed to deal with pressing issues for women.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide who had nominated Edna for this award, offered his congratulations by video.
“Edna has been a passionate leader not only as a hands-on nurse in Somaliland, but also in building a hospital and a training system to produce more nurses and midwives to work in remote areas across her country. She has been a tireless force to end female genital cutting in her country. The result is that largely by force of will, Edna is saving lives every day – and putting in place public health systems that will save lives for many decades to come. She’s a force of nature, and it’s a privelege to watch her in action.”
In this brief video, Nicholas Kristof shares some anecdotes about his first visit to Edna Hospital, and about his personal admiration for Edna and her accomplishments.
I’m thrilled to congratulate Edna Adan on becoming the inaugural winner of the Renfield Award and I’m equally thrilled to congratulate UPenn on its wisdom in selecting Edna. At the end of the day I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for women’s health, but there is silver buckshot. There’s improved nutrition, improved reproductive health care – a whole network of emergency obstetric services, all kinds of things that can be done and Edna is wielding that silver buckshot in a way that makes her such a deserving recipient of the Renfield Award. Congratulations to all of you!
~ Nicholas Kristof
We at the Edna Adan Hospital Foundation extend our deep appreciation to the University of Pennsylvania and the Beatrice Renfield Foundation for selecting Edna Adan as this year’s Global Women’s Health advocate.
At the same time, we are saddened by news that UPenn School of Nursing’s Dean Meleis is stepping down following 12 years of remarkable leadership. We are forever grateful for her support and for her role in improving women’s health.
It is well evident after meeting with Dean of Nurse Sciences, Afaf Melsis; Faculty, staff, and students why Penn Nursing remains to be the best in the country and the world.
Thank you, President Gutmann for your warm welcome and inspiring commencement speech on freedom community, and courage. This week left an everlasting impression, the passion and love from the community was well displayed and we are committed to providing Somaliland women the opportunity for healthy pregnancies and safe childbirths and to eliminate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation ‘cutting’ (FGM/C).
Edna Adan Hospital Foundation