NIH News Advisory
National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases

Wednesday, May 27, 1998

Cheryl Parrott
(301) 402-1663

Gorgas Memorial/Leon Jacobs Lecture

Jill Seaman, M.D., D.T.M.H., a pioneering physician who worked for nine years in southern Sudan, will present this year's Gorgas Memorial/Leon Jacobs Lecture on June 10 at 4:00 p.m. in Wilson Hall, Building 1, on the main campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Seaman, a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières, will speak on "Epidemic Kala-azar in Sudan:Tragedy and Treatment."

In 1988, Dr. Seaman accompanied a medical team sent to a community in Sudan isolated by civil war. The population there was ravaged by kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis), a disease previously not seen in the region. The disease, transmitted by sandflies, is 90 percent fatal if left untreated. Treatment is a 20-day course of injections of a potentially toxic, antimony-based drug. Patients typically walked for days to reach the clinic, a central tent facility surrounded by a huge encampment of patients, their families, and sometimes also their cattle that needed tending during the treatment period. Dr. Seaman monitored up to 1,400 kala-azar patients at a time and personally treated more than 10,000 patients.

Dr. Seaman's deep affection for the people of southern Sudan, their language and culture is very evident, and her patients return her devotion with an inclusive trust and admiration. The chief of one village announced that he has named many of his daughters "Jill" -- and is planning to give the name to his future sons, also.

Dr. Seaman has also served as a general medical officer for a 50-bed regional Indian Health Service bush hospital in Bethel, Alaska. She received a United States Public Health Service Citation for this work in 1986. In 1994, the British Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene awarded Dr. Seaman the Donald MacKay Medal, which recognizes outstanding work in tropical health in rural areas.

As a result of her extensive community service, Time magazine profiled her work in 1997 in a special issue devoted to medical heroism.