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Médecins Sans Frontières to receive 2012 J.William Fulbright prize for international understanding

Washington, DC/New York, 6 September 2012 — The Fulbright Association will present its 2012 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding to the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The formal award ceremony is scheduled for 8 September 2012 at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

The award, a $50,000 prize, will be received with a speech by Dr Unni Karunakara, International President of MSF. A further highlight of the ceremony will be a testimonial to the work of MSF by Francis Gatluak, one of the first people ever treated by MSF in South Sudan for the deadly neglected disease visceral leishmaniasis (VL). He subsequently joined MSF as a nurse to treat the people suffering from the disease that nearly took his own life, and has spent more than two decades working with VL and tuberculosis (TB) patients in his home country.  

“This is the first time the Prize has been given to an organisation rather than to individuals,” said Patricia Krebs, president of the Fulbright Association.  “Médecins Sans Frontières was a unanimous first choice of the International Selection Committee because of the shared goals of the two organisations in promoting global understanding and humanitarian principles.”  

The Prize was first awarded in 1993 to Nelson Mandela, who subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize. Three other Prize laureates were also later named Nobel Prize recipients.  MSF was the Nobel Prize recipient in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­1999. 

“The Fulbright Prize is recognition of the collective efforts of my 27,000 colleagues — some of whom were Fulbright scholars — working on the frontlines of wars and health catastrophes, not only to treat our patients, but to also promote understanding of the medical needs of the forgotten and often neglected,” said Dr Karunakara. “It is fitting that this award is being given to our organisation rather than to an individual – because it reflects the spirit and passion of Médecins Sans Frontières.”

MSF will utilise the funds from the Fulbright Prize to support its efforts in pioneering a more patient-friendly treatment regimen for people living with drug-resistant TB.

Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, will provide a short tribute to MSF prior to the presentation of the award.

The Fulbright Association is the official American alumni organisation of those provided with Fulbright grants to study, teach, and work abroad.  Now in its sixty-sixth year, the Fulbright Programme is the flagship international educational exchange programme sponsored by the United States Government.  The goal of the Fulbright Program is to increase mutual understanding and promote leadership development through learning and international cooperation.  Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided over 300,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research in the United States and more than 155 countries. Approximately 8,000 grants are awarded annually to students, teachers, scholars, artists, scientists, professionals and host institutions.