SPEAK India, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a partnership between the Indian Council of Medical Research, the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It aims to bring together researchers and technical experts alike to develop a consensus on the additional knowledge required to ensure visceral leishmaniasis transmission in India is successfully interrupted and elimination is sustained.
We are sure you will be deeply saddened to hear that Professor Marleen Boelaert, Head of the Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, passed away on Friday 12 June 2020. Despite suffering from a chronic illness for several years, Marleen kept working and helping others until the very end.
Everyone who had the pleasure of working with Marleen respected her passion and huge breadth of knowledge in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), particularly leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, resulting in the publication of over 325 manuscripts. Not surprisingly, Marleen’s wealth of expertise was sought after by many global stakeholders and policy makers. She led NIDIAG, an EU-consortium of international researchers improving diagnostics of NTDs, and advised the World Health Organization, WHO TDR and WHO SEARO.
Marleen was a member of the steering committee of SPEAK India and in this role, as well as co-PI of the surveillance project alongside Prof Shyam Sundar, helped shape all of the ongoing research projects. We have all benefitted from Marleen’s wisdom, particularly the researchers involved in the surveillance and health systems projects, and I am sure that she will be greatly missed by the SPEAK community.
However, Marleen was much more than a rigorous researcher. She was kind, generous and inspirational. She encouraged others, and was a great collaborator, teacher and mentor to all.
We extend our sincere condolences to Marleen’s husband and daughter, her extended family, her friends and all her colleagues at this difficult time.