Dr. Thomas Rea, the father of leprosy treatment, has passed away on February 7, at the age of 86. The dermatologist has lost the battle against cancer and has died in his house located in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The one who managed the incredible feat of curing leprosy, Dr. Thomas Rea was an extraordinary dermatologist in the United States. With the help of Dr. Robert Modlin, he was able to understand how a leprosy patient’s immune system behaves.
Back in the 1980s, the two of them stumbled upon a link between the immune response of a body and the lesions on the skin that are the result of leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease. The link was believed to be true by other previous doctors and scientists, but no one was able to prove it before Rea and Modlin.
Their astonishing work led the way to the development of new treatments for the grave disease. Based on the relationship between skin lesions and immune response, the doctors were able to create modern treatments for leprosy.
The medicine prevented the disease from spreading since it made leprosy patients no longer contagious. As a result, those suffering from the disease did not have to live isolated anymore, and leprosy became more manageable.
However, this is not all Rea is famous for. Since he was also the L.A. County – USC Medical Center dermatology chief, he strongly defended the thalidomine drug, one of the leprosy-management drugs. From 1981 and 1996, the Food and Drug Administration banned the drug since it seems to cause severe defects of birth. Rea explained that thalidomine was essential for leprosy patients and that it was safe while taken under supervision. In the end, the Food and Drug Administration gave up on their attempt, and the drug was removed the list of banned medicine.
Last but not least, Dr. Rea was well known for his methods of caring for patients. Keck School of Medicine chief of dermatology Dr. David Peng recalls many emotional moments. For instance, a leprosy patient once summoned Dr. Rea for an exam following his progress. The doctor greeted him by shaking his hands, in spite of the fact that he was not wearing gloves. He would always make all patients feel secure and comfortable while exposing himself to risk.
Doctor Thomas Rea will always remain an example of not only academic brilliance, but also of mastering the medical profession on all aspects.
Image Source: Science-Based Medicine
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