The Virdimura International Award reaches its VII edition in Catania this year. It’s officially registered in 38 countries of the European Union. It bears the name of the first woman who in history came to achieve the title of doctor. In Italy it’s recognized by the MIUR. Its promoter and creator is Professor Cristina Tornali, physician, President of the INA Onlus and Director of the Sicilian Center of the Accademia Arte Sanitaria. The Award is sponsored by the Italian Society of History of Medicine and Medical Bioethics, promoted by the President of the SISM prof. Adelfio Elio Cardinale, former member of the Superior Health Council.
On 7 November 1376, Virdimura obtained a degree qualifying for the exercise of the medical profession by a Royal Commission, which decreed its official status. The title is now preserved in the State Archives of Palermo and contains a fundamental bioethical and meritocratic note. Virdimura dealt with love and wisdom in the care of the poor and disabled and women of all walks of life.
She therefore inspires a prestigious international award that is celebrated in recognition of those who spend their lives not only in medical science but also in humanitarian aid. In the year that put the world to the test in the pandemic, this value has a particular relevance.
The setting of the Excelsior-Mercure in Catania welcomes the award-winning. Together with her, a large military delegation of the Marines of the NATO base of Sigonella, of military doctors, of Consuls of European and non-European countries, of Civil and Military Authorities, and also of those young future doctors who are the hope of a wise and Human. She is Dr. Corinne Devin, American, Commander in the NATO base of Sigonella, medical officer of the Marines, the “Virdimura 2020”.
Corinne Devin has faced humanitarian missions. She has distinguished herself in civil and social volunteering. She has dedicated herself to young women in encouraging them to combine femininity with high-level commitment in the profession. In fact, Dr. Devin has achieved known awards in her life. She was crowned Miss United States in 2012, Miss Galaxy in 2014, Miss Terra in 2018 and Miss International 2020. This didn’t stop her from being a simple and modest person. To continue her medical and service work in humanitarian missions around the world
Ignazio Vecchio, professor of History of Medicine and Medical Bioethics of the University of Catania, recalled the previous editions of the Prize, which took place both in Italy and abroad, which saw several internationally representative figures awarded. Among these: the Nigerian Sister Anne, who fought prostitution of young women. The writer and vocal educator Miriam Arman Jaskierowicz, who escaped the horrors of concentration camps, dedicated herself to studies on autism. The Maltese psychiatrist Ethel Felice for the care of the disabled and disadvantaged children.
This prestigious recognition is not always given to a woman, but to those who have been inspired by the humanitarian principles of Virdimura. Examples are the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Zion Evrony and, in the Virdimura project, Prof. Riccardo Disegni. Virdimura represented a unique example in world history in a period when Sicily was a melting pot of cultures operating in harmony with each other. The “cultural beacon” of the Virdimura International Prize is not only the promotion of “good medicine”, bioethics, solidarity assistance in the fight against physical, mental and cultural disabilities. It is not only a good example of the role of women and women in civil society, schools, universities and all institutions. The Virdimura International is also one of the few recognized awards against all forms of discrimination, abuse and femicide.
It is no coincidence that the award-winning doctor Devin also dedicates it to S. Agata, the first historical woman martyred for not giving in to abuse. Professor Ignazio Vecchio, delegate, of the Italian Cultural Institute in Malta for the Society of History of Medicine, illustrated how every year a careful choice is made of who embodies the ideals of the Award.
Since 2018, already awarded the Virdimura for her remarkable activity for sick and disabled children, S.E Marie Loiuse Coleiro Preca, former President of the Republic of Malta is a member of the Permanent Commission Virdimura Award. During the 2020 award ceremony, her congratulatory words were read to Corinne Devin: “We are delighted to welcome you to our Mediterranean region, where the extraordinary Virdimura was born and raised and worked hard for humanity. We welcome you as our Virdimura winner to recognize and celebrate your work for peace. Our one human family is increasingly in need of people like you.”
Prof. Cristina Tornali remembered her recently deceased mother. “It is very exciting this event which is the first after my mom, Gemma Rubino, passed away. Having been a well-known fashion designer, she had also drawn the Virdimura award. A sweet, loving female representation that can represent today the human face of Medicine, free from any political or religious connotation, but embracing the human being. It’s not us as people but what we bring, and above all we give, within us to move forward”.
The Virdimura International Prize was officiated in full compliance, despite the difficulties of the covid-19 pandemic. It represents a pride for Sicily, often not adequately appreciated for its human, historical and cultural riches. But also for Italy as a whole and for the entire Euro-Mediterranean area, an example and cradle of all civilizations.