As a medical student in the 1980s, James Orbinski spent a year in Rwanda researching children’s HIV. Overwhelmed by the vast scale of suffering there, he returned from the Central African nation forever changed, building a profound career in global humanitarian medicine.
Throughout the 1990s, he worked for aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in several troubled countries, including Rwanda and Somalia. He was MSF’s head of mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide – an experience recounted in his 2008 bestseller An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the 21st Century. After co-founding the Canadian chapter of MSF in 1990 while pursuing a master’s degree in international relations at U of T, Orbinski served as MSF’s international president from 1998 to 2001.
"U of T is a fantastic place of collaboration. There’s an incredible array of scholars, research activities and thinkers; that’s one of the most attractive elements of the University to me."
In 1999, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of MSF. An associate professor of medicine and political science at U of T, Orbinski is also cofounder of Dignitas International, an organization that provides HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support in Malawi.