International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Professor Michel F Lechat

    Status Physician
    Country Belgium


    Michel Lechat (1928-2014) was a Belgian researcher and public health expert who spent decades fighting against leprosy.

    After completing his medical degree in 1951, he visited the Congo under the mentorship of renowned leprologist Dr Frans Hemerijckx. This visit inspired his devotion to the fight against leprosy. He returned in 1953 with his wife, Edith, and was the Medical Director at Iyonda leprosarium until 1959. Author Graham Greene arranged a visit to this leprosarium in 1959 while researching his novel A Burnt Out Case. He later dedicated the novel to Lechat, whose experience working with leprosy informed Greene’s development of one of the novel’s major characters.

    In 1960, Lechat undertook his doctorate in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. He then worked as a WHO epidemiologist in Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti. He was Professor of Epidemiology at the Catholic University of Louvain and the Tropical Institute of Medicine in Anvers in Belgium.

    Lechat authored over 300 articles in scientific journals, including over 200 on leprosy. He held key positions in many science, health, and development organisations, including the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine, the King Baudouin Foundation, the Damien Foundation, and the National Academy of Science in Washington. He chaired the ILEP Medical Commission and served as President of the International Leprosy Association. He was conferred the title of Baron by the King of Belgium in recognition of his accomplishments.


    Declercq, Etienne. ‘Obituary – Michel Lechat (1928-2014)’. Leprosy Review 85 (March 2014): 68.

    ‘In memoriam: Professeur Michel Lechat, 1927–2014’. World Health Organisation. Online.

    Entry updated March 2016


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