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Doctor Joanne Liu to be new Cleveringa lecturer

Joanne Liu, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, is the Cleveringa professor for the 2016-2017 academic year. She will deliver the annual Cleveringa lecture on 25 November.The day before this she will give an extra lecture for students and staff on Ebola.

Doctor in disaster areas

Dr Liu (1965), a Canadian paediatrician, has been International President of the aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since 2013.  Her determined leadership played a major role in bringing the Ebola outbreak in 2014 under control. Liu started as a doctor with MSF in 1996. Since then she has helped the injured after the tsunami in Indonesia and assisted victims of the earthquake and cholera outbreak in Haiti. She introduced comprehensive medical care for victims of sexual violence in the Republic of Congo, and has worked in many conflict areas, including the Central African Republic and Sudan.

Dr Joanne Liu

Lecture for students

In the period around her Cleveringa lecture Liu will also deliver a lecture to students in Leiden and will hold discussions with scientists and staff within and outside the University who are involved in refugee work. 

Refugee debate

In appointing Dr Liu as Cleveringa lecturer, Leiden University aims to make a contribution to the societal debate on the refugee issue.  The refugee crisis - the reception of migrants and providing them with aid - is one of the most pressing issues facing Europe and the Netherlands today. MSF works in almost 70 countries , including Greece, Italy, France and along the Balkan Route and provides outpatient and mental health consultations to refugees.


The context and time may be different, but in November 1940 Professor Rudolph Pabus Cleveringa also had the courage to stand up for a group of people in need: his Jewish colleagues who had been dismissed by the German occupiers. The appointment of Joanne Liu is a tribute to the work of Médicins Sans Frontières and to all those who provide humanitarian aid.  

Career and awards

Liu studied at McGill University School of Medicine and specialised as a paediatrician at CHU Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal. She also holds an International Masters in Health Leadership. She has worked as a doctor for MSF in Central Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. As well as being the elected International President of MSF, she is also associate professor at the Université de Montréal and a professor in practice at McGill University. Liu has received many prizes on behalf of MSF and for her work with the organisation, including the Prize of Humanism from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec. She is recognized worldwide as one of the most influential individuals in the humanitarian aid world.

Extra lecture

Cleveringa professor Joanne Liu is giving an extra lecture on 24 November. She will talk about the Ebola crisis, in which she played a key role, and about the use of telemedicine. The lecture will focus on international humanitarian issues and will be both medically and non-medically oriented. If you wish to attend, please register here.

About the Cleveringa chair

The Cleveringa chair is a rotating professorship for the period of a year. The Cleveringa professor focuses either on the Second World War or on issues relating to the law, freedom and responsibility. Previous holders of the chair include Vice-President of the Council of State Piet Hein Donner, the historians Carol Gluck, Michael Ignatieff and Hans Blom, and Job Cohen, former Mayor of Amsterdam and professor by special appointment in Leiden.

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