The award is reserved for world leaders in medical science and those who have made an exceptional contribution to children’s lives and society. Previous recipients include President Michael D Higgins; leading human rights activist and singer, Bob Geldof; and former Irish president, Mary Robinson.
Ms Roche, who was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, is voluntary chief executive of the Cork-based Chernobyl Children International charity that she founded in 1991.
She has spent all her adult life helping children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Five years after the devasting explosion, she founded Chernobyl Children International.
Within hours of the catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 31 people died.
However, the effects of the explosion, which released eight tonnes of radioactive material into the atmosphere, are still being felt today in the Ukraine.
The award is in recognition of her “outstanding humanitarian work, activism and global advocacy on behalf of the victims of the Chernobyl disaster”.
The charity has delivered over €105m in humanitarian aid to the Chernobyl affected regions and is the only United Nations’ recognised non-governmental organisation working in the area.
The college’s dean of the faculty of paediatrics, Dr Raymond Barry, said he is delighted Ms Roche has accepted the honour: “This is the highest honour the faculty of paediatrics can confer on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to children’s lives.
“We are very grateful to be in a position to pay tribute to Adi in recognition of her many years of work trying to improve the lives of children and families affected by the Chernobyl disaster.”
Ms Roche said it was a “true honour” to be in the college’s historic building with doctors who undertake life-saving work on vulnerable children every day:
“I graciously accept this honour on behalf of Chernobyl Children International, on behalf of our countless volunteers but, more than, I accept it gladly on behalf of all the victims and survivors of the world’s worst nuclear disaster that, even 31 years later, remains an unfolding tragedy.”
In awarding the fellowship, the Royal College of Physicians is sending out a loud and clear message of hope and solidarity to those affected by the Chernobyl tragedy, said Ms Roche:
“This fellowship is saying loudly and clearly ot the innocent suffering children that they are not forgotten.”
Ms Roche said the charity’s latest cardiac mission is saving the lives of babies and children born with congenital heart defects in Ukraine. Since the programme started almost 20 years ago, the lives of nearly 4,000 children have been saved.
The mission involves flying in teams of internationally renowned cardiac surgeons from all over the world to the region. They provide life-saving surgery to children who would otherwise not be expected to survive beyond five years.