A Hero in the Ukraine: Helene Lefevre-Cholay

By OBOS — April 3, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Alexander Golubov

Nominee: Helene Lefevre-Cholay, COP JSI/Maternal and Infant Health Project (Ukraine)

Helene with a Baby

Helene is a real Hero of the 21st century.

“Her heart has been burning for all Ukrainian mothers and newborns and she’s given pieces of her soul to every health care provider who skeptically believed in a change for better future of the Ukrainian families,” said Raisa Bogatyroyva, Head of Mother and Child (MCH) Department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health about Helene Lefevre-Cholay during Coordination Meeting of USAID-funded JSI/ Maternal and Infant Health Project (MIHP) in January 2009.

Helene Lefevre-Cholay brought to Ukraine her 35 years of valuable experience in public health, especially in maternal and child health. As COP of MIHP, she devoted all of herself in making change in perinatal practices in Ukraine to improve the health of young mothers and their newborns in Ukraine and thus to reduce high maternal and infant mortality rates.

Time-spending in Ukrainian regions, convincing health authorities and leading health care specialists, practical help and training activities, mass-media involvement and fund-raising, bringing international expertise, development of national MCH policy and cooperation with WHO, UNICEF and many other agencies to adopt effective perinatal practices in Ukraine are some of her devotion for the benefits of Ukrainian families.


“Helene made the Ukrainian medical elite change the mentality towards progressive birthing technologies, she persuaded us by her persistent actions and hard work that women children and their families are the central point in our work,” said Dr. Leonid Markin, Professor, head of Obstetric Department of Lviv Medical University in an interview to Lviv TV channel in February 2009.

Thus, in all MIHP facilities (representing 30% of all Ukrainian births) the maternal mortality reduced by 2.5 times and neonatal mortality by 1.5 times compared to the rest of Ukraine.

Due to Helene’s personality and her devotion to improve the health of women and children,  JSI/MIHP, having demonstrated considerable achievements in MCH practices in Ukraine, closely collaborates with WHO Regional Office for Europe to disseminate MIHP informational and educational products all over the world.

For her contribution in International Health, French Government decorated Helene Lefevre-Cholay with highest French decoration — Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur (French: “National Order of the Legion of Honour”) in 2008. Helene is a real hero of the 21st century.

39 responses to “A Hero in the Ukraine: Helene Lefevre-Cholay”

  1. I wish there could be more people in the world like Helene – then the world could become MUCH better! My best wishes to you, Helene!

  2. Helene did a real change in health care providers’ mentality in Ukraine. She spent a great deal of her efforts to change the national Ukrainian policy that resulted in decreased number of newborn death. Most health care providers dropped old Soviet styles of work and learnt to be focused on working in a team with women and their families for improved pregnancy outcomes. Helene is an incredible personality, totally devoted to world of love and care for the people.

  3. Cher Hélène!

    You are doing fantastic work!!! I think that it is great. And it does not matter where Ukraine, Ethiopia or China… What matters is quality of work you are doing!!! Great work!!!

  4. Hélène this is just awesome!!!

    I know you have a heart for people and you want to see every baby born happy, healthy and loved. It’s always been a pleasure working with you. I hope you are doing well and that you continue your good work where ever the Lord puts you.

    C’est formidable!

  5. Thnaks a lot, Helene for helping me with Kangaroo nursing of my baby. My son is getting well off now. God bless you! You’re the best doctor I’ve ever met! Sacha

  6. Dear Helene!
    Congratulations! Your vision, courage and dedication is having a real impact. I Would like to use this opportunity and thank you for all your work and efforts in Kosovo. It was great pleasure to work with you!

  7. Dear Helene,

    You are indeed a hero–someone who works tirelessly for women and children, in Ukraine and elsewhere as well. Your work inspired our project in Georgia as well. Congratulations! I’m proud to have you as a colleague and a friend.

  8. Félicitations! Et à bientot j’espere, de la part d’un ancien-bébé-patient du docteur Lefevre.

  9. Dear Helene,

    All Ukrainian women and men appreciate your outstanding contrubution to improving maternal and infant healthcare.

    We are happy to have you here, in Ukraine. Your vision, courage and dedication inspire everyone working with you.

    Thank you very much for everything you’ve done.

    You are a real hero of our time.

  10. When my first baby was born 11 years ago, the norm was no partner presence during delivery, climbing on the high Rakhmanov bed when you are pushing and delivering on the back, babies were separated from their mothers right after delivery, no skin-to skin, and often there was no rooming-in after that, and you were like in jail – visits of the family in the maternities were taboo.

    Frankly, I was sure that our health care system is hopeless, and it will take 20 years or more to get some changes. And suddenly, in 2002 or 2003 I realised that something changed, an the changes become more and more prominent. The things that were unavailable for the mothers and babies several years ago, things that we have fight for (and often lose our battles) such as partner delivery, free delivery positions, skin-to skin, rooming in etc become the norm for the new mothers. I was amazed and excited. After that i learned that it was the work of the Maternal&Infant Project which worked under Helene’s guidance. We are lucky that Helene come to work to our country! Thanks, Helene!

  11. Bravo pour Hélène .

    Du Biafra…… jusqu’à Kiev, en passant par ton cabinet parisien, l’Ethiopie, Le Kosovo, la Chine et bien d’autres pays où, avec beaucoup d’enthousiasme et beaucoup de détermination, tu t’es investi dans de nombreuses oeuvres humanitaires . Tu as obtenu de très nombreux résultats positifs . chapeau bas, Hélène .

  12. Indeed, I still wonder what is the source of such energy that is focused upon most valuable thing – healthcare and especially mother and child health.

    Whatever you do – you do it with all you heart and soul.

    Je suis trés fièr d’avoir travailler à tes cotés et merci pour tout ce que j’ai appris. Je garde toujours une pensé pour toi.

  13. Dear Helene, it is a privilege to know such a dedicated and knowledgeable person who at the same time is such a warm, inspiring and nice human being! You are worth all the nice words from so many!

  14. Chère Hélène,

    toutes mes félicitations pour les honneurs que tu as bien merité et surtout por les superbes résultats que tu a su obtenir dans un défi aussi difficile que celui d’améliorer les soins à la mère et à l’enfant en Ukraine. A très bientot, G P

  15. I keep wondering what’s the source of such restlessness and energy which are focused upon one of the most valuable cause – mother and infant health…I wish to express my deepest respect to you, Helene.

    Je suis trés fier d’avoir travailler à tes cotés, ce qui m’a permit d’apprendre un tas de chose précieuse. Merci pour tout. Bisou.

  16. Congrats! Helene, You contributions and work definately extended beyond Ukraine to Central Asia, where the work you started in Ukraine is being replicated and scale up! — Gita

  17. A toi Hélène, ma tante unique et préférée 😉 J’ai envie de te dire “RESPECT” pour ton cheminement !!! Je suis fier de toi !! Le courage et l’amour que tu mets en oeuvre depuis toutes ces années pour accompagner des personnes qui en ont le plus besoin sur notre planète, constituent pour moi des valeurs que je me sens inspiré de suivre dans mon propre parcours de vie ! J’ai hâte de te voir pour te féliciter, je t’embrasse fort !

  18. WHO/EU Bureau = please change to correct name which is the WHO Regional Office for Europe. thank you.

  19. Ma trés chère, immense fierté pour toi, pour ton magnifique parcours depuis ces moments intenses des petits biaffrais et leurs kwashiorkor, ces moments ensemble qui me semblent si proches et si loins, bravo pour tes choix qui déchirent souvent, bravo pour cette idée qui ne t’a jamais lachée, de ton destin; ton amie catherine, des blocs opératoirs parisiens

  20. Helen, your contribution to Ukraine will be hailed for generations to come. Your are an inspiration to every Ukrainian seeking to help the country march proudly into the future.

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.