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Gabi Hollows wins the inaugural Ryman Prize

Decades of work to restore sight for older people recognised

Gabi Hollows has been awarded the inaugural Ryman Prize in recognition of her tireless work over more than two decades to help restore sight to more than 1 million people.

The Ryman Prize is a US$150,000 international prize for the best work in the world that has enhanced quality of life for older people.

Gabi was selected by the Ryman Prize’s international jury from nominees from all around the world.

She is the Founding Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation, the charity she set up with her late husband Professor Fred Hollows. Together, Fred and Gabi gathered a team around them, working to tackle the problem of preventable blindness in the developing world and for Indigenous Australians.  The Fred Hollows Foundation now works in more than 20 countries, providing affordable, high-quality, sight-restoring surgery to some of the poorest people in the world.

In the 23 years since the Hollows Foundation was established more than 1 million people have had their sight restored. The vast majority of the recipients are older people who could not have otherwise afforded to have cataract surgery.

Professor Erwin Neher, a Ryman Prize juror and a former winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine, presented Gabi with her Ryman medal at a ceremony in Auckland today.

“We had many high quality entries from around the world which made it difficult to choose a winner,’’ Professor Neher said.

“We were impressed with the profound and measurable impact that the work of Gabi and The Foundation have had on so many older people and their communities around the world. She is a deserving winner of this prize.’’

Gabi Hollows said winning was an honour.

“In many cultures they believe that when your hair goes grey your eyes go grey as well and there is nothing you can do about it. Fred strongly believed that everyone had the right to have their sight restored, no matter where they lived or how much money they had. The joy you have in giving back someone’s sight is the most amazing thing in the world.’’

About The Ryman Prize:

The Ryman Prize is administered by the Ryman Foundation. The prize consists of a US$150,000 annual grant which is awarded to the best invention, idea, research concept or initiative that has enhanced the quality of life for older people.

The Ryman Prize is awarded in New Zealand but is open to anyone, anywhere in the world with a bright idea.

The prize is an apolitical philanthropic initiative aimed at improving the lot of those over 75 years of age. In Western countries such as New Zealand and Australia this is a significant demographic, this is set to triple in numbers over the next 30 years. The prize pool has come from an anonymous donor and the prize is administered with support from Ryman Healthcare, New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator.

The Ryman jury includes:

  • Dr Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.
  • Professor Sarah Harper, Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing.
  • Fred Lee, a Florida-based health management thinker, author and motivational speaker.
  • Professor Tim Wilkinson, consulting geriatrician and Associate Dean of Medical Education, Otago School of Medicine.
  • Dr Naoko Muramatsu, health and ageing research specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Professor Erwin Neher, Nobel Laureate and Professor at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Dr Neher is a biophysicist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1991.
  • Dr David Kerr, Ryman Healthcare Chairman, Fellow and Past President of the New Zealand Medical Association, Fellow with Distinction of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Media advisory: For interviews with Gabi Hollows or Erwin Neher or further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Ryman Prize director David King on 03 366 4069 (00643 3664069) or 021 499 602 (006421 499 6902) david.king@rymanhealthcare.com.

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