Uche Amazigo comes from humble origins, but this daughter of a chauffeur earned a doctorate in public health and is working with the World Health Organization on the challenge of controlling onchocerciasis, widely known as river blindness.
A soft-spoken, elegant woman in her fifties, Dr Amazigo, who became director of APOC in 2005, developed an interest in onchocerciasis because of its most destructive symptom. Working as a lecturer on tropical diseases in the university town of Nsukka in the late 1970s, Dr Amazigo had a chance encounter with a pregnant woman who was plagued by the disease's characteristic itchy lesions and striking depigmentation, and whose husband had left her due to these disfiguring effects.
Moved and deeply saddened by the woman's predicament, Dr Amazigo resolved to help pay for her treatment and to learn more about how the disease destroyed lives. She enrolled in a local rural women's group to hear firsthand about the consequences of onchocerciasis, a parasitic infection transmitted through the bite of the blackfly, on important life experiences such as marriage and breast feeding. And, around the same time, she contacted the head of the WHO-associated Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and was encouraged to apply for a grant to study the disease properly. She took up the offer, and her research has since helped change international perceptions about the morbidity associated with onchocerciasis. WHO has repeated Dr Amazigo's studies in several other countries, and this data formed the scientific basis for launching APOC in 1995, which Dr Amazigo was invited to join as a scientist in 1996.
Source(s): PubMed Central, PBS, MyStoriesMyTestimonies