John Svigos: Greek-Australian Doctor Who Saves Thousands of Lives

john-svigosOver the last few years, Australian media and Indonesian newspapers have been swirling with talk of John Svigos, a Greek-Australian gynecologist and obstetrician who has saved hundreds of lives in Bali. His work’s life work has significantly reduced mortality for thousands of women in the midst of childbirth.

For the better part of four decades, Dr. John Svigos has helped deliver thousands of infants in South Australia. But he only started feeling truly impactful when he shifted his work to Bali. Two decades ago in Indonesia, the number of women who died during childbirth reached upwards of 370 per every 100,000; today, in large part due to Svigos’s work, it has fallen to just 72 per every 100,000.

Svigos claims that his career’s most formidable obstacle came 15 years ago, when he visited the Denpasar hospital, Indonesia’s largest. There, he encountered dozens of injured Australians who had been hospitalized following a 2002 terrorist attack.

“I was on vacation,” recalls the Adelaide-born doctor. “However I could not resist the temptation to visit the hospital and specifically the OBGYN Department to see how they work.” The Indonesian hospital was far smaller than the Royal Adelaide Hospital. It was equipped with just 800 beds, despite 4,500 infants being born there every year.

Svigos is no stranger to developing countries. He studied in Cape Town, South Africa, and has traveled extensively through Africa. His encounter in Denpasar was not the first time he felt the urge to help the unfortunate.

Now, Svigos has organized a way to do just that. He has put together an Indonesia team of doctors, OBGYNs and nurses who are willing to devote their time to teaching colleagues in Indonesia.

“Over the years, the number of women dying during childbirth has decreased significantly,” Svigos says. “Most importantly, were were able to put in place a system of multidisciplinary medical care.”

By some estimates, Svigos has personally saved thousands of lives. In 2006, his work won him a place in the South Australian Medicine Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was awarded the highly-prestigious Medal of Australia.