Dr. Rob Fowler receives Royal College's Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award
Award celebrates Canadian physicians who go beyond the accepted norms of routine practice
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Dr. Rob Fowler has been named as the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award, given by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
While volunteering with the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2014, Dr. Fowler, internist and critical care physician at Sunnybrook, was one of the first international physicians to arrive in West Africa on the threshold of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak.
As part of an international team of health care workers, Dr. Fowler treated patients in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia throughout the outbreak. He assisted in training hundreds of other clinicians, giving many of them confidence by showing everyone that a new standard of care delivery was possible in West Africa. Together, they helped change treatment standards for patients with Ebola.
“It’s terrific that every year the Royal College acknowledges the humanitarian work of physicians and surgeons,” says Dr. Fowler. “While privileged to be a recipient, this isn’t an individual award — it’s an endorsement of the countless people and groups who do this sort of work every day.”
Working alongside national, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and WHO health workers at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, Dr. Fowler and his colleagues pushed for new clinical protocols for the care of patients with Ebola, which was historically associated with a 70 to 90 per cent mortality rate. They focused on a much more aggressive, supportive method of care than had previously been delivered to these patients.
With advocacy for more active clinical care from affected countries, new management guidelines, a growing African Ebola clinical team and response from the international community, access to care improved and the mortality rate dropped to under 40 per cent. When there was availability of advanced supportive and critical care in Europe and North America, mortality fell to under 20%.
“I was fortunate to work alongside selfless Guinean, Sierra Leonean, Liberian and Pan-African clinicians. They risked their lives on a daily basis, and some unfortunately died as a result,” says Dr. Fowler. “The work that Canadians did with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Red Cross, Save the Children, the Canadian Armed Forces and other organizations was an inspiration.”
The Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award acknowledges and celebrates Canadian physicians who, while providing health care or emergency medical services, go beyond the accepted norms of routine practice, which may include exposure to personal risk. The recipient exemplifies altruism and integrity, courage and perseverance in the alleviation of human suffering.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre