Jacinto Convit García (1913-2014)
According to an article published by Medscape, Dr. Jacinto Convit is considered one of the most influential physicians in the history of humanity, next to other renowned Doctors such as Ramón y Cajal and Nobel winners Severo Ochoa de Albornoz, Albert Schweitzer, among others.
With a career spanning more than 70 years, Jacinto Convit García, a leading figure in the fields of public health and tropical diseases, is lauded worldwide-but especially in his native Venezuela, where he is a considered a national hero-for his contributions to the understanding of leprosy, leishmaniasis, parasitology, and immunotherapy.
As a young medical graduate in 1938, Convit García decided to dedicate his career to seeking a cure for leprosy and caring for leprous patients. He was responsible for removing the social stigma associated with the condition, replacing compulsory isolation with ambulatory care while also studying the causative agent of leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, and the clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of the disease.
Convit García was instrumental in establishing a system of regional public health dermatology services in Venezuela, a network that expanded to include other endemic diseases and provided the backbone for medical care for several diseases. Through his dedication and charisma, he inspired a generation of like-minded health professionals who shared his goals. And through his clinical work, he was successful in classifying several dermatologically related diseases.
A native of Caracas, born to an immigrant family from Spain, Convit García undertook advanced training in the United States, attending Columbia, Case Western Reserve, and Stanford universities. Back in Venezuela, as he continued his work on leprosy and leishmaniasis, he was appointed to World Health Organization committees and played a key role in such associations as the International Leprosy Association. He was awarded many international distinctions, including the Pan American Health Organization's Public Health Hero Award, Spain's Prince of Asturias Award, and France's Legion of Honor.[18,20,21]
Convit García worked well into his 90s, contributing to our knowledge of diseases that typically afflict the poorest of the poor. His life work, which also included contributions to chemotherapy and immunotherapy, laid the foundation for the discovery of several vaccines.