Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 19

Now this might seem like really left field, but I want to write about the undercelebrated, and Dr Carlo Urbani certainly qualifies. A physician who specialized in the study and treatment of infectious diseases, he spent most of his career bringing medical help to impoverished and war-torn zones around the world. He served for a time as president of Médecins Sans Frontières, and was among the doctors that went to Oslo to accept the '99 Nobel Peace Prize on the organization's behalf.
In February 2003, he was working in a Hanoi hospital for the World Health Organization, when an American businessman was admitted with flu-like symptoms. He recognized the man's affliction as something new and worse: the disease that would be eventually named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.) He put the alarm out to the WHO, and persuaded the Vietnamese Health Ministry to begin isolating patients and screening travelers, allowing for the one of the most effective global responses to a potential pandemic ever. Dr Urbani was also one of the disease's first identified victims, succumbing to SARS the following month.
In December 2008, friends, colleagues and admirers of Dr Urbani assembled for a memorial oratorio: part spoken testimonial, part opera. An original and unpublished work was created for the performance, and heard for the first time on December 28, 2008. Why should it be the last?

I write about plenty of singers, actors, and cartoonists. Today, I'm writing about a hero.

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