Glen-Mola_140809_Jason-South_TheAgeLegendary Papua New Guinea Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Glen Liddell-Mola (P’64), will be awarded the third Geelong Grammar School Medal for Service to Society on Thursday 20 September.

Glen will receive his award at the Geelong Grammar School & Geelong Grammar Foundation Black Tie Dinner, incorporating the 9th James R. Darling Oration, which will be presented by the School’s 12th Principal, Ms Rebecca Cody. (Click here for more information about the event)

Glen has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to improving women’s reproductive health and reducing the maternal death toll in Papua New Guinea, which has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. Glen provides medical care, training, outreach and health clinics across PNG as well as running the busy maternity ward at the Port Moresby General Hospital. He is also the Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Reproductive Health at the University of Papua New Guinea, where he has trained generations of local doctors, obstetricians, midwives and birth attendants.

“Professor Mola is an untiring advocate for women’s and newborn health at a global level and an inspiring example of how a clinical leader can effect change and improve outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged women in the Pacific region,” Melbourne University’s Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor Susan Walker, said.

Glen said that he was “astounded” to be the recipient of the Geelong Grammar School Medal for Service to Society, which was established to recognise people who, by way of the excellence of their achievements, have made sustained contributions to the betterment of society. It is the highest honour the School can bestow on a member of our community. Thai health and education activist, Mechai Viravaidya (P’59), was awarded the inaugural Medal for Service to Society in 2014, followed by human rights lawyer and refugee advocate, Dr Eve Lester (Fr’81), in 2016. “I’ve done my bit, I suppose,” Glen said humbly. “How much control do you have over your life really? I think about that a lot. My life has been determined by Papua New Guinea." Glen first visited PNG on a Geelong Grammar School excursion led by Michael Collins Persse in 1963, sparking a lifelong love affair with Australia's wild and rugged neighbour. He returned the following year and visited regularly while completing his medical degree at Melbourne University. "I did all my intern training in PNG. I started off in public health and rural medical practice. I did the obstetrics and gynaecology because there was no-one else to do it, so I fell into it.”

For mothers in PNG, where most women give birth in their village, the chance of dying in childbirth can be as high as one in 30 (in Australia it is six in 10,000). Many women have their babies alone, with no trained help. Glen works as part of a team of six local and expatriate specialists at the Port Moresby General Hospital, which cares for more than 15,000 women each year (similar numbers of women in Australia would typically require the services of between 50 and 60 obstetricians). With just 26 beds, the maternity ward is understaffed and under-resourced and every day struggles to accommodate an average of 45 births. “We’ve had a big impact on those who can come for a supervised birth and for those that can access care,” Glen explained. “The unit I run at the Port Morseby General Hospital has the lowest rates of babies and mums dying of any major public maternity hospital in any developing country in the world. For women who can get to our service, we can produce quality outcomes. It’s the poor women who can’t access a supervised birth at a health facility who still die at very high rates.” At 71 years of age, Glen continues to build on his legacy of improving outcomes for women in babies in PNG, driving outreach programmes and training local doctors, obstetricians and midwives. "I won’t be able to do this forever, but I’ll keep on for as long as I can do it and for as long as I am useful."

Photo: Jason South, Fairfax