2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 6


12 October 1967 - 29 July 2023

From Whyalla, South Australia to Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, Mona Girgis left a lasting impression in many ways across both her personal and professional life. Never one to stand still and accept the status quo, Mona was an unwavering advocate for girls' and women's rights, humanitarian assistance, community development, and public health around the world.  

Mona was the daughter of the late Dr Anwar Girgis—an orthopaedic surgeon who practised in Whyalla and Adelaide after migrating to Australia in 1969—and his wife Myrtha Girgis. Starting her career as a nurse and midwife, Mona worked in Indigenous Australian communities, including Palm Island, in the Sexual Health Service. She became a nursing director before embarking on a career in overseas development and humanitarian programming.

Mona worked in many and varied locations driving humanitarian assistance and development. These included Tanzania, Pakistan, Iran, Timor-Leste and Laos.

She started her overseas career in Tanzania and subsequently returned there with her family after a wonderful tenure in Laos. As a Country Director for Plan International, Mona reached the pinnacle of her career, leading the community and teams to self-sufficiency in public health and other programs.

Mona held a Bachelor's degree in politics, a Graduate Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing, a Master of Nursing Studies (Midwifery), and a doctorate in Public Health. This powerful combination empowered her to navigate the complex geopolitical issues to bring support to the communities she worked in.

Mona was a driving force for the establishment of the Anwar and Myrtha Girgis SIMG Grant administered by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The grants support migrant, refugee and asylum seeker doctors who are experiencing financial hardship in gaining the professional development required to practice surgery in Australia or Aotearoa New Zealand. This is a legacy that truly reflects her aspirations and achievements.

She brought an unwavering commitment to those less fortunate, recognising everyone’s value and uniqueness. Through her determination and commitment, Mona has left a multi-generational legacy on the communities she has touched.

We pay tribute to an amazing woman. Mona is survived by her daughters Sofia (15) and Maya (18), her husband Erling, and brother Peter.


The Anwar and Myrtha Girgis SIMG Grant

Dr Anwar Riad Girgis was an orthopaedic surgeon who trained in medicine in Egypt and then undertook postgraduate training in the UK before taking up practise in Australia. In appreciation of the assistance given to him by generous colleagues in the UK and Australia, he and his wife Myrtha later supported Trainees and Specialist International Medical Graduates (SIMGs) who wished to settle in Australia. Despite numerous challenges, Anwar focussed on the most vulnerable people under his care. He ensured they were protected, cared for professionally, and treated with compassion.
Mona and her brother Peter started the Anwar and Myrtha Girgis SIMG Grant to continue their father’s legacy. The grant supports aspiring surgeons from migrant, refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds who wish to gain the professional development required to practise surgery in Australia or Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Mum and dad were compassionate and through this grant, that compassion will live on. I know this grant will make a difference,” Mona had said.

For more information on applying for this grant please go to the Anwar Girgis SIMG Grant on the RACS website. Applications open in March 2024.

If you wish to create a legacy in your name or that of a loved one to leave an ongoing lasting impact, see the Foundation for Surgery Legacy web page.