By: Elisa Baring, Director, Special Projects
I was caught off guard when I recently received an invitation to attend Professor Alan Fenwick’s retirement reception in London. I know Alan has been speaking about, or one can say threatening, retirement for sometime now – but the reality is setting in and I’m somewhat at a loss for words. He has been a strong, vocal, unrelenting, and passionate supporter of NTDs and somebody I respect very much (and will miss seeing at regular NTD conferences, meetings, and workshops).
I first met Alan while working part-time at Imperial College and doing my graduate studies at the London School of Economics. My director thought I would find the work of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) interesting since I was doing a degree in public health and had done Peace Corps in Niger (one of the first countries to have been supported by SCI). I remember meeting Alan and immediately being inspired by his passion for schistosomiasis, awed by his commitment to public health and, of course, charmed by his charisma. He left an impression, and a year later I applied for a program manager role at SCI to support schistosomiasis and intestinal worm control efforts in West Africa.
There are so many excellent stories about Alan: how he identified baboons as being a reservoir host for schistosomiasis in a study conducted in Tanzania, how during his research studies he painted snail shells and then couldn’t find the snails because little kids were collecting the “beautiful snails,” how he and colleagues advocated congress for funding to support NTD control, how he was one of the first to (readily) use the term “50 cents” for advocacy efforts in the world of NTDs, and so many more great ones!
Though I left SCI when my husband was transferred for work in late 2009, I have very fond memories of working with Alan – from his enthusiastic commitment to in-country colleagues to his unwavering belief in his staff – and have enjoyed collaborating with him and his SCI team while working at the END Fund. I’m proud to have been known as one of the “SCI ladies” and I’m honored to call Alan a friend.
Alan, on the eve of your retirement I want to thank you and honor you. We’ll miss you, please don’t be a stranger, you’re leaving SCI in very capable hands, and thanks for taking me to meet the Queen!