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Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights Celebrates 20 Years of Advancing Health, Dignity and Justice

For Immediate Release

Noah Wyle, Paul Farmer, Rev. Gloria White Hammond and Eric Reeves Join Human Rights Leaders to Celebrate Boston-based Group and Honor Three Physician Heroes; Area Hospitals Support Event

Boston, MA Saturday, October 21st 2006. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and the world's premiere health and human rights group, today marked its 20th anniversary with a gala awards dinner held at the Boston Public Library's Bates Hall. Giant "KNOW, DARE, ACT" banners, the theme of the event, graced the library's entrances. Over 300 guests were in attendance.

More about the celebration and the awards:
PHR Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary"Over the past two decades, Physicians for Human Rights has become more than a successful non-governmental organization—we have sparked a growing global movement to promote health through the protection of human rights," said Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR.

"Physicians for Human Rights mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity and justice using the skills of forensic science, public health, psychologists, and others," said Dr. Holly G Atkinson, President of PHR.

At the anniversary event, PHR honored three remarkable physician advocates for their work and embodiment of PHR's mission to promote health by protecting human rights: Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a public health physician and staunch defender of equity in health care, from Brooklyn, New York; Dr. Julian Atim, a courageous young physician combining health care with advocacy in conflict-ridden northern Uganda; and Dr. Khassan Baiev, a Chechen surgeon who was accused of treason for his ethical commitment to treat both Chechen rebels and Russian fighters during that conflict. Jan Egeland, United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, received an award in absentia for his tireless efforts advocating for humanitarian aid and human rights protections in war-torn areas around the globe, particularly in Darfur, Sudan, where PHR has documented genocide.

Noted local newscaster Liz Walker was master of ceremonies. Presenters included: actor Noah Wyle; Dr. Paul Farmer, the pioneering public health physician profiled in Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder; professor and Sudan activist Eric Reeves; and Rev. Gloria White Hammond, MD, a pastor of a Boston church and pediatrician as well as National Chairperson of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign.

"Physicians for Human Rights saved my life, I urge you to support them so they can save more lives," said Dr. Khassan Baiev, PHR Health and Human Rights award winner, a Chechen surgeon and the author of The Oath, a memoir of his experience treating both Russian forces and Chechen rebels during the Chechen civil war. Dr. Baiev obtained asylum in the United States and now lives in the Boston area.

Another PHR Health and Human Rights award recipient, Dr. Julian Atim of Uganda, said, " I am one of two medical doctors serving a population of 300,000 with no running water, no electricity and very few drugs…Physicians for Human Rights has given me the skills and support to not only be a doctor, but an advocate, for my people."

Founded by a group of doctors in 1986 in Brookline, MA, PHR has responded to virtually every major conflict in the last 20 years. PHR pioneered the use of forensic science and public health methods to investigate atrocities and promote the right to health in the United States and across the globe. PHR's conviction that health professionals can, and should, play an integral role in protecting and promoting human rights has changed both the human rights movement and the medical community forever.

A co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace for their work as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR's many accomplishments include the following:

  • PHR is the driving force behind the effort to end health professional participation in the torture and abuse of detainees in the custody of US forces;
  • PHR's early investigations in Darfur, Sudan, have generated greater awareness of this crisis and supported a strong international response to the genocide there.
  • PHR's Health Action AIDS campaign has helped direct millions of dollars in public and private aid to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in Africa.
  • PHR's asylum program mobilizes more than 300 physicians who provide medical evidence for victims of persecution and torture who seek safe haven in the US.

"For two decades, PHR has been a powerful advocate for the powerless, pressuring governments to protect civilians and prevent atrocities wherever they occur…[PHR] has provided early warning, protection and accountability mechanisms, which have proven of crucial importance in the many humanitarian emergencies that have fallen off the world's radar," PHR Health and Human Rights Award winner Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said of the group in a message sent from Europe.

New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Bob Kraft and his wife Myra; Kristina and Patrick Lyons, Boston restaurateur and promoter; Nobel laureate in medicine Dr. Joseph Murray, and Boston lawyer Cheryl Cronin were among the many luminaries who attended. In addition, at the event were prominent members of the Boston medical community, including representatives from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham & Women's Hospital, South End Community Health Centre, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Hospital Association, Massachusetts General Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network, Cambridge Health Alliance and the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU), Harvard Pilgrim Health Foundation, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

In addition to the four major award winners, PHR honored 20 individuals from Boston and across the country for their dedicated advocacy in health and human rights.

"The people honored by Physicians for Human Rights tonight have backpacked through deserts and toiled in mass graves, have testified on Capitol Hill, and marched in the streets. They exemplify the best of their professions," said Susannah Sirkin, PHR Deputy Director.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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