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Obituary: Professor Mahmoud Fahmy Fathallah

May 1935 – Nov 2023

The world of medicine and reproductive health mourns the loss of a pioneering figure, Professor Mahmoud Fahmy Fathallah, who passed away on 9th of November 2023. Born on May 1, 1935, in Egypt, Professor Fathallah dedicated his life to advancing the fields of obstetrics and gynaecology, leaving an indelible mark on global health policy and women's rights.

Professor Fathallah’s academic journey began at Cairo University, where he earned his M.B.B.Ch. in 1957, followed by several notable degrees, including a Doctorate in Gynaecology and Obstetrics in 1962 from the same institution. His quest for knowledge led him to Edinburgh University, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1967 with a focus on human ovarian tumours.

Throughout his illustrious career, Professor Fathallah held various academic positions at Assiut University, starting as a Demonstrator in 1958 and rising to the esteemed position of Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1973. He was later honoured with the title of Emeritus Professor in 1995. Professor Fathallah’s impact extended beyond the classroom, as he served as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine from December 1978 to August 1986.

Professor Fathallah was a staunch advocate for reproductive rights, serving as a prominent voice in the international community. His commitment to empowering women to make informed decisions about the number, spacing, and timing of their children was reflected in his influential roles within the World Health Organization (WHO). He chaired the Global Advisory Committee on Health Research and the EMRO Advisory Committee on Health Research, contributing significantly to the formulation of global health policies.

His dedication to reproductive health and rights extended to various organisations, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), where he served as a member of the Advisory Group on Contraceptive Development Research and contributed to the Expert Group on Mortality and Health Policy.

Professor Fathallah’s influence reached far beyond academia and international organisations. He served on the boards of several esteemed institutions, including the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), where he held key positions as Vice-President and President. His tireless efforts in promoting sexual and reproductive rights earned him numerous awards and honorary fellowships from prestigious institutions worldwide.

Among his many accolades, Professor Fathallah received the UN Population Award in 2009, a testament to his exceptional contributions to women's health and rights. He also received honorary fellowships from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1985 and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists  (Ad Eundem) in 1990. His profound statement, "Mothers are not dying because of conditions we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving," encapsulates his unwavering dedication to addressing global maternal mortality.

In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Professor Fathallah was granted honorary doctorates from several universities worldwide. His legacy lives on in the countless lives he touched and the transformative impact he had on the field of reproductive health.

As we bid farewell to a visionary leader, mentor, and advocate, we extend our deepest condolences to Professor Fathallah’s wife and his two children, friends, colleagues, and the countless individuals whose lives were touched by his compassionate and tireless work. May his legacy inspire future generations to continue the pursuit of equitable healthcare and reproductive justice.