Dr. Denis Mukwege
President, Founder, and Medical Director
Panzi Hospital and Foundation
Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon who is the president and founder of Panzi Hospital and Foundation in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As a young child, Dr. Mukwege accompanied his father, a Pentecostal pastor, while visiting sick members of the community. This later inspired him to become a doctor, as he realized that prayer was not enough to help heal those who are suffering. He decided to specialize in gynecology and obstetrics after observing that female patients at Lemera Hospital suffered from insufficient medical care, which caused life-altering complications during their deliveries, such as fistulas and prolapse.
He founded the hospital in 1999 with the intention that it would be a center of excellence for maternal health care in a country that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. however, the first patient that arrived at Panzi’s doors was not a pregnant woman coming to deliver her child, but instead a woman who had been raped with extreme brutality and as a weapon of war. Dr. Mukwege and his staff were forced to become experts in one of the worst specialities in medicine — the treatment of conflict-related sexual violence and the severe gynecological trauma that it results in.
Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 80,000 survivors of sexual violence since the hospital’s inception. The hospital not only treats survivors with physical wounds, but also provides legal, socio-economic reintegration, and psychosocial services to its patients. Dr. Mukwege has been fearless in his efforts to increase protections for women and to advocate that those responsible for sexual violence be brought to justice, including the Congolese government and militia groups laying siege to eastern DRC.
Le Dr Mukwege n'a pas peur de s'efforcer d'accroître la protection des femmes et de plaider pour que les responsables de violences sexuelles soient traduits en justice, y compris le gouvernement congolais et les milices qui assiègent l'est de la RDC.
In October 2012, Dr. Mukwege was violently attacked and his family was held at gunpoint at his home in an assassination attempt, and his trusted bodyguard was killed. The attack came several weeks after Dr. Mukwege denounced the country’s 16-year-long conflict and called for those responsible to be brought to justice during a speech at the United Nations. After this attack, Dr. Mukwege and his family fled the country for his safety, but his many Congolese patients and survivors urged him to resume his life-saving work at Panzi Hospital, and even began selling fruits and vegetables at local markets to raise funds for his return ticket. Vowing to continue to serve survivors despite the risk to his safety, he returned to the hospital in January 2013, and was celebrated by crowds of people ecstatic to have him home. He has been the recipient of numerous awards worldwide, including the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for his advocacy against sexual violence as a weapon of war and for his outstanding services to survivors of rape.