IN MEMORIAM: Professor Mahmoud F Fathalla

Professor Mahmoud F Fathalla

Born in Egypt in 1935 and died 10 November 2023.

MD, Cairo ; PhD, Edinburgh

His many leadership roles since the 1970s:

-Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Assiut University, Egypt, 1972;

-Dean of the Medical School, Assiut University, Egypt, 1972-1986;

-A founder of the International Safe Motherhood Initiative and one of many who developed the concept of reproductive health adopted by the UN;

-Former Director of the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction at WHO, 1986-1992;

-Former Chairman of the International Medical Advisory Panel, International Planned Parenthood Federation, 1986-1993;

-Former President, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), 1994-1997;

-Former Chairman, WHO Global Advisory Committee on Health Research 2000-2004;

-Former Chairman, Advisory Committee on Health Research, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, 2006-

-Senior Advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation.

Honorary Doctor:

-Uppsala University, Sweden 1991

-Helsinki University, Finland 1999

-University of Toronto, Canada 2001

-Hasselt University, Belgium 2011

Honorary Fellow 

-American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, USA, 1985

-Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, UK, 1990


-Recipient of the WHO Award for Family Health, 2001

-Recipient of the UN Population Award, 2009

-Recipient of the first IPPF Award for Individual Contribution to SRHR, 2009

Author or Co-author

-From Obstetrics and Gynecology to Women’s Health, 1997

-Reproductive Health and Human Rights: Integrating Medicine, Ethics and Law, 2003

-A Practical Guide for Health Researchers, 2004

-Issues in Women’s Health and Rights: International, Arab Regional and Egyptian Perspectives, 2008

-What does the Qu’ran say about women, 2014

-Author of more than 100 articles and 50 chapters of books (listed on ResearchGate)

-More than 3,800 citations on Google Scholar

-40 lectures and speeches posted on the FIGO website

Video: Why Did Mrs X Die? 1989

This video is a presentation by Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla, Scientist at WHO and Professor of Obstetrics. Dr. Fathalla tells the story of “Mrs. S” and explains the concept of the road to maternal death. This story of one anonymous woman illuminates the key causes of maternal mortality, as well as the remedies to this tragic and preventable situation. This video presentation is intended for teaching and training purposes as well as to raise awareness regarding the major problem of needless maternal deaths. — Full text not available. Please contact the PAHO Library using this e-mail for further instructions.

Mahmoud will be remembered for his academic prowess, lectures, speeches and his forthright advocacy of women’s health and rights. Among the many teachings and quotes addressing women’s health through the life-course approach, which he espoused, he will be remembered for this powerful statement, which he first shared many years ago and which remains as true now as it was then:

Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to decide their lives are worth saving.

Above all, however, he will be remembered as a mentor and a wise and thoughtful colleague and teacher. He was also one of the warmest-hearted people I have ever known and a much loved friend.

With deep condolences to his family, Marge Berer