We were deeply saddened by the death of Prof. Ahmed M. El-Hassan, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the Institute of Endemic Diseases, University of Khartoum. Prof. El-Hassan passed away on 10 November 2022 in Sudan. He was 92 years old.
A distinguished career of service
Prof. El-Hassan was one of the most acclaimed leishmaniasis experts in Africa and an early witness to the first cases of the disease in Gedarif State, Sudan as a young research assistant in 1958. In those days, little was known about the disease in the region. To understand leishmaniasis, Prof. El-Hassan immersed himself in clinical work and conducted numerous autopsies on patients who succumbed to the disease.
His interest in the field of medicine started at a young age. After completing his Diploma in Medicine at the Kitchener School of Medicine in 1955, he joined the Sudan Ministry of Health as House Officer and then as Medical Officer from 1955 to 1958.
In 1958, Prof. El-Hassan joined the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Khartoum as a Research Assistant in the Department of Pathology. In 1966, he was appointed as the first Professor of pathology, and Chairman of the Department of Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine. During this time, he helped establish the Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology.
Prof. El-Hassan was called upon to establish the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 1971. He was instrumental in laying foundations of the Ministry and, with the help of fellow academicians, helped maintain the independence that Sudanese universities enjoyed over subsequent decades.
Former Dean of the Medical School at the University of Khartoum, Prof. El-Hassan founded the Institute of Endemic Diseases in 1993, where he served as Director until 2003. The Institute has played a leading role in research on endemic diseases, medical and paramedical staff training, and the delivery of specialized services for endemic diseases.
Prof. El-Hassan believed in the importance of voluntary service and was a founding member and active friend of several NGOs, providing material and moral support to various organizations. He was recognized with numerous honours over the course of his career, including the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Donald Mackey Medal, the World Health Organization Shousha Prize, and the Hamdan Award for Honoring Distinguished Personalities.
An enduring ally of neglected patients and friend of DNDi
Prof. El-Hassan was a close friend of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) from the earliest days of the organization, joining fellow scientists from the region in forming the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform in 2003. With a deep-rooted commitment to meeting neglected patients’ needs, he played a crucial advisory role in supporting DNDi leishmaniasis clinical trials in Sudan – all conducted in partnership with the Institute of Endemic Diseases. Named in his honour, the Ahmed Mohamed El-Hassan Centre for Tropical Diseases in Dooka, Sudan has long been a key study site for DNDi leishmaniasis clinical trials, playing an essential part in propelling research to improve treatment for the disease.
A friend, father, and grandfather who was admired by many, Prof. El-Hassan will be remembered for his life of dedication to teaching and research, and for his committed service to poor and marginalized people. He was a compassionate scholar, inspirational leader, and generous mentor to young and aspiring researchers.
The DNDi family is grateful for the vital contributions Prof. El-Hassan made to science, leishmaniasis, mycetoma, and the medical field. He will be greatly missed.
Tributes from DNDi researchers who worked closely with Prof. El-Hassan
‘Prof. El-Hassan was more than a mentor, he was a visionary clinician, an innovator, one of the kindest and most patient listeners – and always as modest as he was expert. He was also one the most modern researchers I have met, always keen to adjust to an evolving world. And he was also not devoid of a great sense of humour.’ – Dr Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, COVID-19 Response & Pandemic Preparedness Director, DNDi
‘Prof. El-Hassan is the father of leishmaniasis in Africa. He has conducted extensive research in the area of immunology of the disease. We owe the start-up of the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform to him. He was my friend and my mentor. May his soul rest in Eternal Peace.’ – Dr Monique Wasunna, Eastern Africa Director, DNDi
‘Prof. El-Hassan was an eminent pathologist and an excellent researcher, clinician, teacher, and mentor. Although he held several high positions, including as Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan, his microscope was never far away; in fact, it had a permanent place on his desk. He thoroughly enjoyed seeing patients in the field and was clear that all patients need attending to. He would, therefore, make sure to bring appropriate medicine during his trips to the field. This scientific excellence and commitment to patients’ health should be an example for all of us.’ – Prof. Eduard Zijlstra, Founding member of the Leishmaniasis Research Group of the University of Khartoum and Consultant Expert, PKDL/Mycetoma, DNDi
Photo credit: Abraham Ali-DNDi