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Death of a Legend: What You Should Know About the Egyptian Doctor Who Cured the World

Vehemently driven to cure the world since the tender age of 10, this man of science lives forever in the hearts and minds of the world’s children.

You’ve seen the news, you’ve read all the articles and you’ve just found out after X amount of years on this earth that a genuine scientific saint met his untimely end. Or you might have just brushed it off in favour of whatever else is going on in the world (we hear there’s a World Cup or something). Regardless of circumstance, you’d do well to remember the man fondly; without him, you would have probably lived a far shorter life. In honour of Professor Adel Mahmoud’s passing, we’ve compiled only some of his trials, tribulations, achievements and experiences in life, perchance folks might pay their respects in any fashion.

Tragic Origins, Necessary Suffering

Not a lot of things in life can convince you to walk the same scholarly path as this man has. Many of the brightest minds out there are born out of strife, and Dr. Mahmoud was no exception. At just 10-years-old, his father had come down with a severe case of pneumonia which only got worse over time. In a distraught effort to save his father, the child hurried to the nearest pharmacy – a ways away from where they were – in order to obtain life-saving penicillin. It was for naught, however, as his father had passed away before the child was able to return. Disease became his mortal enemy after that twist of fate, and with that kind of trauma looming over him, he used all the negative energy he was in to propel himself all the way to a Bachelors of Medicine from Cairo University. That was when his trip truly began.

I often wondered if his strength as a leader and his clear vision originated from being forced into those roles at an early age

– Dr. Sally Hodder, wife of the late professor.

The Man Who Cured the World

Ever heard of rotavirus? No? No wonder; it’s (almost) nonexistent in parts of the world with access to basic medicine. Rotavirus basically gives infants (more often than adults) a really bad case of diarrhea and gastroenteritis (more commonly known as a stomach flu), and when you’re barely a year old, that’s basically a death sentence. Millions of children and sickly mothers the world over succumbed to the disease, and although there was already a vaccine for it at the time, it had an increased risk of causing infantile bowel obstruction (bad news). Seeing as Dr. Mahmoud was the president of Merck Vaccines from 1998 to 2006, he made it the company’s priority and his own personal mission to create a viable vaccine. RotaTeq became one of the world’s two Rotavirus vaccines, and the most prolific. A leading cause of infant mortality gone, all because he saw a chance and took it.

Aside from Rotavirus, Dr. Mahmoud also directed his attention to an increasingly prevalent yet ever-pervasive ailment; Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Though you might know HPV colloquially as genital warts, and think pretty much nothing else of it besides an itch and a trip to your local GP, the lesions incurred by the virus are a wide gateway for cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth and throat. In fact, HPV types 16 and 18 are the main causes of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The most common sexually transmitted infection the world over that ravages both the developing and the developed world, and Dr. Mahmoud oversaw the creation of a vaccine for the ailment with his peers. In 2014, Gardasil – the world’s leading HPV vaccine – was introduced to the market after years of clinical tests.

That wasn’t enough for the good doctor, however, as he oversaw the creation of Zostavax – a vaccine against horrifically painful Herpes Zoster, colloquially known as shingles. In addition, he also brought ProQuad – the MMRV vaccine - into the medical scene; an all-inclusive vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. We don’t need to tell you what all four of those do to people (google exists), especially children with already poor immunity. This man, along with his peers, has literally saved millions of folks around the world – including yours.

Not only was he my lifelong mentor, he was a true force of health for people everywhere

-Dr. Julie Gerberding, Merck executive vice president and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Man of Action

Odd twists of fate seemed to have followed the good doctor. Apparently, there was an oddly pervasive strain of meningitis ravaging students and staff at Princeton University, blooming into a full-blown outbreak. Seeing as it was a freak occurrence, it had no vaccine at the time. The good doctor wasn’t one to dawdle, and instead, gathered whatever connections, leads and ideas he had to get his hands on a European vaccine to help end the epidemic. After getting all the help he could from the pharmaceutical world, and with a little persuasion, he managed to convince the Obama administration to allow the vaccine’s entrance into the U.S on an emergency basis.

Farewell

Though he might be gone from this earth, his legacy lives on in each and every one of us. A life past childhood is a blessing, so is a life without easily preventable yet overwhelmingly dangerous diseases. We mourn the loss of Professor Adel Mahmoud, and we hope for the best of fortune and blessings for his family, friends and everybody he’s ever inspired.

“Adel was a key player in the development of Princeton’s Global Health Program,” said Janet Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, chair of the Department of Economics and director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing. “Students loved him. He had very high expectations, but he knew they could meet them and helped them to learn that too. His passion and good humor will be greatly missed.”


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