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01 Jun 2018

AMA Woman in Medicine 2018, Professor Judith Goh AO, has described receiving her award as a great honour and privilege.

Adding that it was acknowledgement for the work of a dedicated team of health professionals, Professor Goh told Australian Medicine the award would also help build awareness for the plight of women’s health.

“We often live quite comfortably in Australia but for most women around the world, surviving their pregnancy is not taken for granted,” she said.

“So this is great recognition. But we don’t do these things to be recognised. We do it because we want to do it.”

Professor Goh is a dedicated gynaecologist who volunteers her time treating women in war zones and Third World countries.

She was named the AMA Woman in Medicine 2018 at the AMA National Conference in May.

She is a urogynaecologist who has devoted her career to women’s health. Her next stops are Bangladesh, Myanmar, and some African countries.

A world-renowned surgeon who has spent approximately three months every year for the past 23 years training doctors in Third World countries in repairing vesico-vaginal fistula – a devastating injury that can occur following prolonged, obstructive labour – Professor Goh was noticeably touched by the honour.

In presenting her the award, outgoing AMA President Dr Michael Gannon noted that Professor Goh’s nominators – colleagues from the Australian Federation of Medical Women and the Queensland Medical Women’s Society – have described her career as both humbling and inspirational.

“Since 1995, Professor Goh has donated her time and expertise, working abroad several times a year as a volunteer fistula surgeon in many parts of Africa and Asia, including Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia,” Dr Gannon said.

“Professor Goh runs the twin projects, Medical Training in Africa and Medical Training in Asia, via the charity, Health and Development Aid Abroad (HADA), using funds raised to help pay for women’s surgeries such as the correction of genital tract fistulae and prolapse, while training the local staff in these areas.

“To carry out her work within a dedicated team of professionals, Professor Goh often has to brave political unrest, and perform surgery in challenging environments, as well as deal with the emotional and social injuries to her patients due to war, rape, domestic violence, poverty, shame, and grief.

“Her work has changed lives for the better for hundreds of affected women, correcting their often long-standing and preventable obstetric trauma, including vesico-vaginal and recto-vaginal fistulae, with the minimum of overhead costs to maximise the reach of her services.

“Professor Goh uses her time abroad to upskill local practitioners in this area of medicine, and to raise awareness of the underlying causes of chronic complications of birth trauma, including poverty, lack of education, lack of awareness, and the subordination of women in some cultures.

“In 2012, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) ‘for distinguished service to gynaecological medicine, particularly in the area of fistula surgery, and to the promotion of the rights of women and children in developing countries’.

“Her humble dedication within this field of women’s medicine, and her brave and generous service to women all over the world, is inspirational, and very worthy of recognition as a recipient of the AMA Woman in Medicine Award.”

Professor Goh said many women felt ashamed after delivering stillborn babies.

“In some places it is seen as a failure. There is even violence against them in some communities. We are building a community where lot of women can come together and feel supported,” she said.

“In our country we no longer really say ‘mother and child are well’ after a baby is born. It’s taken for granted, so the first question is how much did the baby weigh.

“But there are so many places in the world where this cannot be taken for granted.”

The AMA Woman in Medicine Award is presented to a woman who has made a major contribution to the medical profession by showing ongoing commitment to quality care, or through her contribution to medical research, public health projects, or improving the availability and accessibility of medical education and medical training for women.

CHRIS JOHNSON


Published: 01 Jun 2018