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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

BOOKS: Love, Energy and Learning

Three new publications debuted at the recent ILC Congress in Beijing.

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Inspiring journey: the life of Dr. P.K. Gopal

Leprosy is a disease known to break up families, but what shines through in From Erode to the United Nations: The Memoirs of Dr. P.K. Gopal is the unwavering love and support shown to the author by his parents, siblings and relatives as he comes to terms with a diagnosis of leprosy as a college student.

Dr. Gopal’s account of his life growing up in Erode in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, undergoing treatment and finding his vocation as India’s first trained social worker to work in the rehabilitation department of a leprosy hospital takes readers on an inspiring journey that leads—more than once—to the United Nations.

From his darkest days, confined to bed with a radio as his only contact with the outside world, the author slowly rebuilds his life, being offered a job at a leprosy hospital, developing his ideas about socio-economic rehabilitation and going on to obtain a Master’s degree and later a Ph.D. in social work.

Along the way, he becomes a founder member of the international advocacy group IDEA, a member of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Association’s Medico-Social Commission, the first president of the National Forum (now Association of People Affected by Leprosy), and a much-traveled advocate for the dignity and human rights of people affected by leprosy.

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Dr. P.K. Gopal with granddaughter Gayathri in Beijing

Dr. Gopal has met several Indian presidents, shaken hands with the late Princess Diana, chatted with the Dalai Lama and been awarded one of his country’s highest civilian honors. But throughout this dignified account, the author never fails to acknowledge his debt of gratitude to the many people who assisted him on his life’s path—and none more so than his family.

INDEFATIGABLE SPIRIT

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Dr. Romana Drabik

Although physically petite, Dr. Romana Dravik is blessed with an iron resolve. While holidaying in Kenya in 1976, the sight of people with leprosy begging on the street triggered in her a passionate desire to become involved in leprosy work. After several more trips to Africa, she turned her attention to India, then to Russia and the post-Soviet states—all the while running her own medical practice in Dinslaken, Germany.

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Positive energy: 40 years of leprosy relief work from Mumbai and Dinslaken

One of her collaborations has been with the Bombay Leprosy Project (BLP). Together with BLP’s Dr. V.V. Pai, she has produced a booklet, 40 Years: Leprosy Relief Work from Mumbai, India; Leprosy Relief Work from Dinslaken, Germany 2016. It is mostly devoted to Dr. Drabik’s work in the post-Soviet states, chronicling the extraordinary lengths to which she has gone to visit out-of-the way leprosaria, establish contacts with doctors and patients, and promote scientific exchanges.

Describing a visit Dr. Drabik and her husband made to a leprosarium in the Republic of Karakalpakstan in 2004, Dr. Atajan Khamraev recalls how his own attitude was transformed after seeing the couple greet patients, embrace them like close family members and listen to their problems. “In their presence, I could not but become infected by their positive energy.” Dr. Drabik’s positive energy courses through this book.

ONLINE TEXTBOOK

Dedicated to “the physicians and health workers caring for their first patient with leprosy, and to all those in the research community who have encountered some of the fascinating scientific aspects of leprosy and wish to learn more,” The International Textbook of Leprosy is an initiative to address the lack of knowledge and awareness in the healthcare community about leprosy and the strong stigma, based on fear, that still contributes to prolonged suffering and delayed diagnosis.

Edited by the director of the U.S. National Hansen’s Disease Program, David M. Scollard, M.D., Ph.D. and Adjunct Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Thomas P. Gillis, Ph.D., the text book is a free online resource sponsored by American Leprosy Missions.

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Online expertise: The International Textbook of Leprosy

Comprehensive in scope, it contains 10 sections and 34 chapters covering all aspects of clinical and basic sciences related to leprosy, drawing on the expertise of dozens of medical and scientific experts from some 20 countries.

For now, the textbook remains a work in progress, with some chapters still to completed. This timely addition to leprosy learning can be found at: www.internationaltextbookofleprosy.org