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Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger Doctor of Health Sciences, 2012
Bio | Citation

Born in Sheering, Essex, Claire Bertschinger realised a childhood ambition when she completed her training as a nurse. And after enjoying a successful start to her career in the UK, she soon turned her attention to the developing world, where she recognised her skills were in greater need. Claire's first overseas posting was to Panama, working for the Scientific Exploration Society, and over the next few years she was to travel to regions as diverse as Papua New Guinea, Sulawesi, and later - working for the International Committee of the Red Cross - to many war zones around the globe.

While working at a feeding station in Ethiopia in 1984, Claire had the enormous responsibility of deciding who would be fed, and who wouldn't. The plight of the starving refugees became the focus of a BBC report, and Claire featured in the now-famous footage alongside journalist Michael Buerk. This highly emotive report highlighted the fate of many thousands of young children and became the inspiration for Bob Geldof's Band Aid and then Live Aid fundraising phenomenon. Michael Buerk would later describe Claire as "one of the true heroines of our times". Claire went on to work in more than a dozen war-torn regions around the world, from Afghanistan to the Ivory Coast and Lebanon.

Claire continues her work today. She is a trustee and ambassador for The African Children's Educational Trust, and Patron for Promise Nepal - an organisation that helps leprosy sufferers and their families. Claire is also the Course Director for the Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and although she has retired from field work, she continues to work very hard to train nurses from all over the world.


Areas Of Interest: Healthcare, Charity
Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Citation:

"Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger DBE for the award of Doctor of Health Sciences, honoris causa.

Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger is the nurse whose work feeding refugees during the famine in Ethiopia inspired Bob Geldof to set up Live Aid.

Born in Sheering, Essex, Claire Bertschinger realised a childhood ambition when she completed her training as a nurse. And after enjoying a successful start to her career in the UK, she soon turned her attention to the developing world, where she recognised her skills were in greater need. Claire's first overseas posting was to Panama, working for the Scientific Exploration Society, and over the next few years she was to travel to regions as diverse as Papua New Guinea, Sulawesi, and later - working for the International Committee of the Red Cross - to many war zones around the globe.

In 1984 Claire travelled to Ethiopia to help care for children caught up in the civil war and subsequent famine, and it was during this time that her work was ultimately to have such a great impact on so many people. Working as a field nurse at the feeding station in Mekele, Claire had resources to feed just 300 people each day. Yet there were tens of thousands of refugees without food, so Claire had the enormous responsibility of deciding who would be fed, and who wouldn't. The plight of the starving refugees became the focus of a BBC report, and Claire featured in the now-famous footage alongside journalist Michael Buerk. This highly emotive report highlighted the fate of many thousands of young children and became the inspiration for Bob Geldof's Band Aid and then Live Aid fundraising phenomenon. Michael Buerk would later describe Claire as "one of the true heroines of our times".

After leaving Ethiopia, Claire went on to work in more than a dozen war-torn regions around the world, from Afghanistan to the Ivory Coast and Lebanon. Claire is driven by a passion to relieve the suffering of others and a belief that child mortality rates in the under-fives can be reduced by two-thirds by 2015, and that this can be achieved by the empowerment and education of women worldwide.

Claire continues her work today. She is a trustee and ambassador for The African Children's Educational Trust, and Patron for Promise Nepal - an organisation that helps leprosy sufferers and their families.

Claire is also the Course Director for the Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and although she has retired from field work, she continues to work very hard to train nurses from all over the world, equipping them with the skills they need to operate in hostile and challenging environments. She is also deeply committed to promoting and fostering education in the developing world, and firmly believes in the value of education in making and sustaining progress in developing nations.

Claire became associated with Anglia Ruskin University during the Essex SGI-UK Buddhist's Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Builders Exhibition earlier this year, an involvement which reflects Claire's key life aim of peace through peaceful means.

It is no surprise that Claire has received many prestigious awards, including the Florence Nightingale Medal and the Woman of the Year - Window to the World Award. In 2009, in recognition of her services to Nursing and International Humanitarian Aid, Claire was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen.

A local-born woman, Claire Bertschinger has brought about some astonishing achievements in the field of international development and along the way helped to inspire one of the landmark events of the late 20th Century. The impact of Dame Claire's work will continue to be felt in impoverished and war-torn regions around the globe for many years to come.

Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger DBE for the award of Doctor of Health Sciences, honoris causa.
"

An image of Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger
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