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What is the Hamlin Model of Care?

The Hamlin Model of Care: World’s Leading Approach to Treating Fistula 

Hamlin Model of Care Graphic US | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Obstetric fistula is a complex childbirth injury that requires special care. The physical and psychological consequences of this childbirth injury are debilitating and heartbreaking. 

Surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin pioneered a complete treatment for women suffering obstetric fistulas. Surgical repairrehabilitation, counseling and reintegration all form the elements of what has been recognised as world-best practice in preoperative and postoperative fistula care.

The Hamlin Model of Care is grounded in a fundamental respect for women who suffer this condition and a commitment to provide complete and compassionate care.

Upon arrival at a Hamlin hospital, patients are embraced with tender and loving care. They are given nutritious food, a handmade woven blanket, and clean clothing. A customised program is made for each woman that includes nutrition, physical therapy, counselling and rehabilitation.

Due to the stigma associated with obstetric fistula, many women cannot return to their communities and few have an income that allows them to live independently. That’s why Dr Hamlin founded Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’) in 2002 as a recovery centre where long-term fistula patients with severe injuries can continue to heal.

After 60 years the Hamlin Model of Care remains a core part of the organisation today. It is a culture instilled across the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Many of our 550 staff worked alongside Catherine over many years, even decades, and were greatly inspired by her passion and professionalism. In fact, many are also former fistula patients themselves.

The result is clinical excellence that does not compromise on treating every woman with compassion and dignity. Discover below the Hamlin Model of Care: a meticulous 4-step process to treating fistula.

The Hamlin Model of Care: 4 Essential Steps to Treating Fistula

icon surgery | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Surgical Repair

Surgical Repair, often through a single, life-changing surgery. Surgery is the first step in treating fistula. At the six Hamlin fistula hospitals in Ethiopia, more than 60,000 women have received obstetric fistula repair surgery. Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has also trained many surgeons from around the globe in treating fistula. 

icon rehabilitation | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.


Rehabilitation, because surgery is just the beginning of the long road to recovery from this childbirth injury. Alongside personalized nutrition plans that help to nourish patients who frequently come to us severely underweight, intense physiotherapy to treat muscle damage, helps women to regain their strength. 

icon reintegration | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.


Reintegration, beginning with literacy and numeracy classes, and vocational and life skills training. We also support women in finding sustainable employment or starting their own businesses. In many cases, they may have lost everything, and so this support is critical to equipping women to return to their communities. 

icon counseling | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.


Counseling, because obstetric fistula is accompanied by severe psychosocial trauma. We provide women with the empathetic support they need to regain their sense of self – sometimes after years of living in shame and social isolation. 

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Ethiopian Surgeons in the middle of an obstetric fistula surgery

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All rights reserved 2020 Catherine Hamlin Foundation (R) (ABN58159647499)
Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is fiscally sponsored by KBFUS (EIN582277856) and KBF Canada (RCO769784893RR0001)

Photography credits to Cameron Bloom, Nigel Brennan, Mary F. Calvert, Kate Geraghty, Amber Hooper, Joni Kabana, Johannes Remling and Martha Tadesse.

Patient names and images have been changed to protect the identities of those we help.