Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: The Death of Smallpox

DA Henderson’s personal account of the Smallpox Eradiation Program is filled with well researched, comprehensive detail that gives the full scope of the eradication program in its full capacity. He dutifully describes all the facets of the program, including the political, social, cultural, religious and economical issues that surrounded the eradication program as well as the disease itself. And he gives his account with a lot of passion and commitment to the message he is relying.
One of the things I found most intriguing about DA Henderson’s book is his detailed description of the struggles and difficulties he faced while dealing with the World Health Organization. This detailed mostly with the political facet of the eradication, as this program was global and required the participation of nearly every single country because if one was affected, everybody else was at risk. And so, it is with disbelief that we read about the miles of bureaucracy that he had to go around in order to succeed even though he was doing everyone a big favor, whether or not they were involved. Such an account serves to show that sometimes, one must break the rules or disagree with the big players even though it might mean making one’s life ten times more difficult. It is in facing obstacles such as these that the true leaders are exposed.
It also serves to illustrate that not everyone in charge has the best interest of others at heart. I was particularly disappointed by director Candau of the WHO and others like him, who did nothing to help or did everything to discourage the continuation of the program. If its people like these who are in charge of an organization, such as the WHO, that is supposed to advocate and fight for those who have no voices, then we need many more DA Hendersons, Don Francis’s, and others if we are to make any more magnificent advances in humanity’s fight against diseases.

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