Michael Latham died in April 2011. His profile will remain posted here.
I was born in Tanzania where my father was a doctor. From early childhood my goal was always to attend medical school and then to return to Tanzania to do the kind of exciting and humanitarian medical and public health work that as a schoolboy in Africa I saw my father doing. I achieved that ambition, and to this day I think that my most meaningful, educational and significant job was in the six years I spent as a ‘Bush Doctor’ running a hospital, doing surgery, obstetrics, and everything, and being responsible for the public health services in a large district.
This also was my introduction to nutrition. I conducted and published research on the control of anaemia, and I worked on a multi-disciplinary applied nutrition project in remote Songea District. As director of the nutrition unit I was overseer, and in charge of all nutrition activities in Julius Nyerere’s new government. In Dar es Salaam I was considered to be the founder of the International School of Tanganyika, and served as the first Chairman of its Board of Directors. This was the first non-racial school in Tanzania, and it has continued to thrive.
My political awakening came when as an 18 year old medical student I participated in an anti-nuke rally in Trafalgar Square in London where the main speaker was Bertrand Russell. I have remained an activist. I led and was arrested for anti-apartheid demonstrations at Cornell, and was much involved there, with Daniel Berrigan and others, against the Vietnam war. I have for many years been very involved in activities and writings on human rights to food, adequate nutrition, and health
I am a medical doctor with graduate degrees in Public Health (MPH, Harvard University) and Tropical Medicine (London University), with internationally recognised expertise in the major nutritional problems of economically developing countries. In research, teaching and public service I have been particularly involved with breastfeeding, infant and child health; parasitic infections and their relationship to health; micronutrient deficiencies especially iron deficiency anaemias and vitamin A deficiency; and also nutrition and human rights. In collaborative research demonstrating the impact of intestinal helminths and schistosomiasis on nutritional status and health, Dr. Lani Stephenson, my wife and colleague, was often the principal investigator.
For ten years I worked in Tanzania as a physician, and then as Director of the Ministry of Health Nutrition Unit. Then for 25 years I served as director of the Program in International Nutrition at Cornell University, which during this period grew into the largest most widely recognised such programme at any university in the US; and then as Professor of International Nutrition until 2004 and now as a graduate school professor, emeritus professor and international professor. I am the author of several books, and over 400 published chapters or papers.
At Cornell I have been the mentor and advisor to over 100 graduate students, mostly PhDs, many of whom have moved on to important careers in international nutrition all over the world. I am still much involved with graduate students in international nutrition; occasional teaching both undergraduates and graduates; research mainly in Africa; and public service including work with United Nation agencies.
Over the years I have conducted research on many topics relevant to international mutrition. Among these have been many studies on young child feeding, intestinal parasitic infections, and interventions to reduce Vitamin A deficiencies and anaemia. I have taken a leading role in policy related to breastfeeding and HIV/AIDS. This recently included an African four-country study for UNICEF and major talks in Vienna, Venezuela, Washington, Boston, Alabama, Antwerp, Durban and Vancouver, to mention a few.