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Renfield Award

The Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health was established in 2012 by the Beatrice Renfield Foundation. This award and a prize of $100,000 will be presented biennially to a leader or leaders in the field of global women’s health. 

The award is presented to:

  • A demonstrated leader in improving women’s health particularly in one of the following areas:
    • Advocating for policies and/or programs that improve the lives and health of women by illuminating social injustices, conserving or improving environmental resources, or reducing violence and discrimination against women and girls;
    • Improving the lives and health of women by empowering women to lead their institutions, communities and nations as well as their homes;
    • Forging innovative solutions to promote the health of women and girls, partnering with them to manage symptoms of health-related conditions, and improve their quality of life across the lifespan
  • Their work and leadership has resulted in significant impact in improving the lives and health of women.
  • Their work and leadership has resulted in increased visibility of the issues impacting the lives and health of women and girls.

2018 Renfield Award Recipient

Dr. Vandana Gopikumar
Co-Founder of The Banyan and the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health

On March 21 2018, Dr. Vandana Gopikumar, an inspiring advocate for women’s mental health, will receive the 2018 Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health for her work in helping women with mental health problems in India.

The Banyan began as a spontaneous and heartfelt response to the visible gaps in care and attention for homeless women with mental health problems, who in the eyes of society simply did not exist. There were no services to help them recover their lost lives. In the beginning, The Banyan offered a transit care facility that offered shelter, safe spaces, and crisis intervention.

When it started in 1993, Gopikumar originally set up a shelter for homeless mentally ill women in order to provide care and basic treatment. But she was struck by the realization that the problem was much deeper since India’s mental healthcare system had several missing components. Furthermore, she saw that the homeless mentally ill required not just medical attention, but a whole spectrum of healthcare and psychosocial services ranging from their rescue off the streets to rehabilitation and reintegration. Thus, over the last 25 years the services have expanded to one that tackles a growing public health crisis in India. The Banyan services an 800,000 population, has reached out to over 10,000 individuals in distress, and offers persons with mental health issues (particularly from vulnerable groups) access to a comprehensive range of services that include emergency and recovery focused care, wellbeing oriented community based care, and inclusive long term care for persons with high support needs.

The Banyan’s core philosophy is that every individual should have access to opportunities, be aspirational, and live life to their fullest potential. The focus is on socio-economic and cultural participation, and seeks to shatter myths and misconceptions around mental ill health. It established psychiatric clinics, social care programs, self-help groups and ultimately a resource center, the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM). BALM focuses on developing partnerships with the government, civil organizations, universities, and individuals to further the development of mental health services in the region.

“Dr. Gopikumar embodies the very essence of The Renfield Award, which is given to an individual who demonstrates leadership in improving women’s health,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel, PhD, FAAN. “Over the past 25 years, she and her team have helped more than ten thousand people with mental health issues in India to reintegrate into society. Her devotion to helping this community is steadfast and tireless. We are happy to recognize her and The Banyan with this much-deserved award.”

2016 Renfield Award Recipient:

Dr. Denis Mukwege

Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Panzi Hospital & Panzi Foundation, Democratic Republic of Congo

 On March 24, 2016, Denis Mukwege, a decorated humanitarian and outspoken advocate for women’s rights, will receive the 2016 Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health for his work in treating and highlighting the plight of women in the war-torn eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The eastern part of the DRC has been mired in regional warfare – since the late 1990s – resulting in more than five million deaths, brought about by disease, hunger and violence. Militias and rebels terrorize the region’s women and children – from infants to the elderly – with mass rape and sexual violence. Fear of being victimized renders women unable to farm and feed their families, so they flee. Their destination for years has been Bukavu, a city in the region. This migration over the years has created a health care crisis. In the past 15 years, the population of Bukavu has swelled from 250,000 people to more than one million.

This crisis attracted the attention of Dr. Mukwege, a trained obstetrician and gynecologist, who lives and works there. In 1999, he established the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, offering much-needed health care to women. The hospital has become known worldwide for the treatment of survivors of sexual violence and women with severe gynecological problems. Mukwege and his staff have performed reconstructive gynecological surgery on more than 21,000 females injured as a consequence of war, including those subjected to rape. He also established a nurses training program, the Institute de Techniques Medicales de Panzi, to provide education and clinical training to about 50 nurses per year, so that the standard of clinical care can be maintained.

“The Renfield Award is given to an individual who demonstrates leadership in improving women’s health. Dr. Mukwege embodies the essence of this award in his tireless and courageous efforts to deliver health care and other social services to women in an area that has seen far too much violence, Dr. Mukwege has been their voice for justice, not only in this region, but across the world.”

- Antonia Villarruel, PhD, FAAN, Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

2014 Renfield Award Recipient:

Edna Adan Ismail

Founder and Administrator
Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, Somaliland

On May 15, 2014, Edna Adan Ismail, an inspiring advocate for women and girls, whose maternity hospital in Somaliland is an oasis of healing and care for the country’s women became the inaugural recipient of the Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health is Adan was nominated for this award by Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times and co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book features Adan among its many stories, which serve as a call to action against the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

Adan was born and raised in Somaliland, and was the first Somali girl to be awarded a scholarship to study in Britain. She studied nursing, midwifery and nursing management for seven years before returning to Somaliland, where she became the first qualified nurse-midwife in the country and the first Somali woman to drive a car.

Adan later married Somaliland’s prime minister, Ibrahim Egal, and she became the first lady of the country. After the two divorced, Adan joined the World Health Organization (WHO), where for years she advocated for the abolition of harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). When she retired from the WHO, she sold all of her possessions, and returned to Somaliland to build a hospital. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital officially opened in 2002.

The health of the people of Somaliland is among the worst in Africa, with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Every year, one baby in eight dies in infancy while nearly 4,000 Somali women die in childbirth. The Maternity Hospital is dedicated to training fully-qualified health care professionals, and to training and dispatching 1,000 midwives throughout the country. It also remains committed to Adan’s mission to fight the practice of FGM.

“Edna Adan 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 privilege to watch her in action.”

- Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times and co-author,
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Renfield

The Beatrice Renfield Foundation is led by Jean Renfield-Miller, PAR’15. The Foundation is named after Jean’s sister, who devoted years of service and resources as an advocate for the nursing profession. Mrs. Renfield-Miller first became involved with Penn Nursing through her role on the Executive Committee for the HEALTHY CITIES: HEALTHY WOMEN New York City and Urban Women’s Health Conference, held May 5, 2011. Mrs. Renfield-Miller currently serves as the Associate Director of Admissions at the Brearley School in New York, NY. She received her B.A. from Connecticut College, her M.A. from the Teachers College at Columbia University, and her Ed.M. from Harvard University.