Neglected tropical diseases

In memoriam
Professeur Michel Lechat, 1927–2014

7 May 2014 | Geneva
Professor Michel Lechat

It is with deep sadness that we learnt of the passing of Professor Michel Lechat on 28 February 2014.

Professor Lechat will be remembered as a distinguished and respected scholar, scientist, researcher and public health expert.

As a young doctor after completing his medical degree in 1951, Professor Lechat had his first experience of Africa when he interned with Dr Frans Hemerijckx. It is during this stay in the Congo that he engaged himself in the fight against leprosy – a passion that lasted a lifetime.

He returned to the Congo at that time under Belgian administration as Director of the Iyonda leprosy centre until 1959. After that, he completed his specialization in public health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before taking up position as a World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist in Mexico, Cuba and Haiti, and as Professor of epidemiology at the Catholic University of Louvain and the Tropical Institute of Medicine in Anvers in Belgium.

Professor Lechat has authored more than 300 scientific articles including 200 on leprosy, particularly on the epidemiometric model of leprosy, which simulates and analyses the impact of long-term treatment of leprosy under different regimens. He also held numerous international positions and became a Member of the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences and President of the Selection Committee of the King Baudouin International Development Prize. From the 1970s to the 1980s he was very closely associated with the WHO leprosy programme and chaired authoritatively several WHO meetings on the subject ,e.g. the 1981 study group which defined the MDT regimens.

In recognition of his excellent work, Professor Lechat was conferred the title of ‘Baron’ by the King.

Professor Lechat’s generosity, openness and enthusiasm characterized his work throughout his career.

He was passionate in sharing his experiences and inspired many to fight leprosy worldwide.

We lament the loss of an excellent colleague and a great man.

He will be greatly missed.

Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases