Forty-five years ago, this week I arrived in Ibadan Nigeria to visit my MPH classmate, Joshua Adeniyi, and meet the faculty of the newly established African Regional Health Education Centre (ARHEC). A highlight of those meetings was seeing Prof Ade Lucas who as head of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM), which housed ARHEC), had supported the partnership of the University of Ibadan, Federal Ministry of Health, and the World Health Organization that created ARHEC as the first Africa-based professional postgraduate training program in public health education. Prof Lucas had created a multidisciplinary environment where Public Health Education could thrive.
I was convinced to join the faculty of OSM and ARHEC, and by the time I returned in October 1976, Prof Lucas had taken up the directorship of The Special Program of Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), which was initially sponsored by WHO, the World Bank and UNDP. Fortunately, Prof Lucas continued to mentor the ARHEC faculty and by encouraging us to apply for TDR grants ensured that I was well on my way in building a career around social and behavioral interventions to control tropical diseases.
Unfortunately, Prof Lucas left us finally on 25 December 2020. Below are the postings of colleagues to commemorate his life. Idowu Olayinka of the Nigerian Academy of Science outlined some of the many accomplishments of Prof Lucas as follows:
- He was an outstanding medical scientist.
- Former Professor and Head Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Ibadan.
- Founding Director, WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.
- Former Programme Chair, Carnegie Foundation.
- Former Professor of International Health, Harvard University.
- He was the first person ever to receive, in 1995, the highest academic honour of the University of Ibadan, Honorary Fellowship of UI, FUI.
The Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Prof Olayinka Omigbodun adds more to the list. “His achievements and accomplishments are too numerous to list here. These have been documented very well in many books, reports, and newspapers. He was the author of numerous books and articles in refereed public health journals. He was an author of many books including “A Short Textbook of Preventive Medicine for the Tropics”. Books have been written about him including his own autobiography (It Was the Best of Times: From Local to Global Health (2010,” and a biography “The Man: Adetokunbo Lucas” (2011).”
“A recipient of many honorary degrees from Emory University, Tulane University, and University of Ibadan he was also a recipient of academic honors from Harvard where he was a professor of Public health, he was bestowed with numerous awards including Prince Mahidol Award (1999), the Centenary Medal for Life-Time Achievements in Tropical Medicine (2007) and from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) (5 March 2013), to name a few.”
“There can be no question about Prof Lucas being a distinguished teacher of many students was who have become distinguished in their own rights. He was a global leader in Medical Research that has impacted many populations, especially in Africa. The footprints are notable and impactful.”
“When my children and grandchildren ask me who my best teachers while in the Medical School (or thereafter) were, I always list some top 10 teachers to those who imparted knowledge, affected my ambition to be “like them”, impressed me with statements and instructions that continued to ring in my ears till today, or demonstrated acts of exemplary kindness and character, indicated personal interest in my progress and success in life, and showed loving friendship to someone who was once their student or junior colleague. Professor Lucas was one of them.” The Provost refers people to a memorial website that has been created to share tributes, photographs and other memories.
Colleagues who worked with Professor Lucas in TDR or knew him because of TDR have shared their reflections. Jamie Guth said, “Prof Lucas was an amazing man. I felt privileged to have known him and experience the impact of what he started with TDR at WHO – now several generations of top scientists across Africa and many other countries finding solutions to infectious diseases.”
Jane Kayondo Frances Kengeya reacted with, “A giant has fallen. His legacy will live on through those he taught, mentored, influenced, supported and loved. Let’s celebrate his life and thank God that we had a chance to know him. May his soul Rest In eternal peace. May his family and close friends receive the grace to endure the loss.”
Mohamnadou Jabur Cham, observed that, “His contributions to the RCS within TDR were not only impressively significant but indeed phenomenal. An envious legacy especially for young scientists from disadvantaged countries. Adieu Prof. till we meet again.”
We trust that the legacy of Professor Ade Lucas will live on in the many people he has taught and mentored and the many careers he has helped launch in public health, preventive medicine and tropical disease control.