IMHL Class 4 participant Joanne Liu is the winner of the prestigious 2013 Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Every year, the Royal College allocates $1 million through its National and Regional Awards and Grants Program to honour the exceptional accomplishments of Fellows, as well as encourage excellence in specialty medicine.
One of the most prestigious prizes—and among the most difficult to adjudicate due to the extraordinary accomplishments of the nominees—is the Teasdale-Corti award. This award is named for Dr. Lucille Teasdale-Corti, FRCPC, a Canadian surgeon and international aid worker and her husband Piero Corti, both of whom worked in Uganda and contributed significantly to the development of medical services there. Establishing the Teasdale-Corti award was something of a grassroots movement at the Royal College. It was conceived of, and championed by, our Regional Advisory Committees, who made a strong argument that we should formally recognize physicians who go above and beyond their duties to provide health care with a humanitarian focus.
This year’s winner, Dr. Joanne Liu of Montreal, Que., is no exception. Dr. Liu’s desire to engage in humanitarian work dates back to her adolescence, when she read a book called Et la Paix dans le monde, Docteur, about a Médecins sans frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders) physician working in Afghanistan. A few years later, the teenage Joanne Liu completed a mission to Mali with Canadian Crossroads International. She was hooked, knowing then and there that she would become a doctor serving populations in developing countries.
The remarkable Dr. Liu is an inspiration. Her career with MSF has delivered her to some of the most dangerous regions of the world, among them Somalia, Honduras, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Palestine, Uganda, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Mauritania, Chad and Haiti. Dr. Liu knows well the sound of missiles flying overhead (Sri Lanka), and has had to live in conditions so dangerous that she slept with her boots on in case of a rebel attack (Congo and Sudan). She has saved countless lives in the field, under the most extreme conditions of deprivation, and has also witnessed countless deaths that were beyond her ability to prevent. Still, her work continues.
In addition to her efforts in the field, Dr. Liu has served on the board of MSF, acted as its President and is currently working on an innovative telemedicine project that will provide access to specialized care in major humanitarian emergencies.