Remembering Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Her Life & Work Seen In "A Walk to Beautiful'
This week, the world said goodbye to Dr. Catherine Hamlin AC, the renowned obstetrician and gynecologist who was integral in Engel Entertainment's Emmy-Award winning documentary, 'A Walk to Beautiful.'
Dr. Hamlin passed away at the age of 96 in her home in Addis Ababa, after a long and incredible life spent devoted to her work treating Ethiopian women suffering from devastating childbirth injuries.
In 1974, Catherine, together with her late husband Dr. Reginald Hamlin OBE, co-founded Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a healthcare network that provides life-changing treatment to marginalized women: those who have suffered an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by a prolonged, unrelieved obstructed labour, which leaves them incontinent, humiliated and cut off from their communities.
“These women have suffered more than any woman should be called upon to endure," Dr. Hamlin said while describing the many women and girls who she had come to know so well after a career spent treating and caring for them. "To meet only one is to be profoundly moved and calls forth the utmost compassion that the human heart is capable of feeling.”
In 2007, Engel Entertainment released its feature documentary, 'A Walk to Beautiful,' which follows the lives of five Ethiopian women who have chosen to reclaim their lives by taking the long and exhausting journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where they can be seen by Dr. Hamlin and receive the life-saving procedure that each of them so desperately needs.
Before its official release, the film's co-directors, Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher, asked Dr. Hamlin to describe her personal relationship with the women who make their way to her hospital seeking treatment and hoping for recovery. When asked if she thinks of them as patients, Dr. Hamlin replied, "No. I think of them as individual girls, and I feel very drawn, very compassionate towards them. I love them really."
"To see them coming through the gates of this hospital in a state of dejection with nothing in this world but faith and hope that we can cure them, and urine-soaked clothes, it touches the hearts of everyone who meets them."
After its release, "A Walk to Beautiful" went on to win several major awards including an Emmy award in the Informational Programming category in 2009, and the International Documentary Association's award for Best Feature Documentary that same year. In doing so, the film shared Dr. Hamlin's work and the plight of her patients on the global stage for the very first time, drawing enormous support from the public and critical acclaim from the film industry.
After the news of Dr. Hamlin's passing was reported from Ethiopia, Executive Producer, and President of Engel Entrainment, Steven M. Engel remarked that "Our team will always consider ourselves lucky for having known her and grateful to have shared part of her life's mission through our documentary, 'A Walk to Beautiful.' Today, we are especially humbled to know that the film will always be here to keep her life and her legacy alive."
During the last years of her life, Dr. Hamlin was confident that her legacy would live on, and told the Daily Telegraph, “When I die, this place will go on for many, many years until we have eradicated fistula altogether – until every woman in Ethiopia is assured of a safe delivery and a live baby.”