Thursday, April 7, 2011
Prof. Michael Latham: A Nutrition Baobab Falls
By James Achanyi-Fontem
Coordinator, WABA Men’s Initiative
Emeritus Professor Michael Latham passed into transition peacefully around 4:30pm on(April 1, 2011). He was surrounded by his sons and friends during his transition. Michael 's leadership and devotion to human nutrition worldwide lives on in the many graduate students he has trained, who have gone on to be leaders in their own right, as well as in the many colleagues he has influenced through his research and writings. Michael was seen as a "Living Legend" in international nutrition and this loss is especially painful for Cornell University and the Division of Nutritional Sciences. Considering his activities during the WABA conferences, the members of Men’s Working Group have lost a deeply caring, thoughtful and committed colleague.
The family believes Michael is still with us, just in a different way. They really appreciated all of the support during Michael's period of poor health and they expect to read more about his life in the days ahead. The United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition issued an award of merit to Michael Latham for his outstanding lifelong contributions and service to nutrition in Hanoi, Vietnam in March 2008. Professor Michael Latham was honoured by Dr. Elisabeth Sterken, the Chair of NGO/Civil Society Group who highlighted his important contributions to advancing health and nutrition among mothers and children. Professor Latham has had a distinguished career in academia and in health service, working in Tanzania and Uganda in Africa before joining the Graduate School of Nutrition at Cornell University where he continues to supervise students. He is a cofounder and co-chair of the advisory group of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. His legacy however, is through his students who work throughout the world extending his commitment to maternal and child health.
Still in 2008, about 60 former students of Cornell Professor Michael Latham and his international nutrition program honoured their former professor at Cornell, July 3-6.
The Cornell International Nutrition Alums Reunion celebrated Latham's 40 years as professor of international nutrition, his scientific and other contributions to health and nutrition worldwide and his 80th birthday. Alumni hailed from such countries as Indonesia, South Africa, Tanzania, Guatemala, Sweden and Haiti, as well as from many parts of the United States and Canada.
In May 2007, the African Nutrition Graduate Students Network (AGSNet) presented its first lifetime achievement award to Dr. Michael C. Latham (right), professor emeritus and graduate school professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, for his work to improve nutrition in Africa.
The award was presented at the first conference of the Federation of African Societies of Nutrition in Ouarzazate, Morocco, May 7-9, 2007. A day earlier, Dr. Latham delivered the inaugural address, "Combating Infections to Control Malnutrition," at the second biennial conference of AGSNet, which was founded at Cornell with the help of then UNU Food and Nutrition Programme (UNU-FNP) director Cr. Cutberto Garza. UNU-FNP still sponsors the network.
Dr. Latham was director of Cornell's Program in International Nutrition for 25 years. He also authored several books, including Kilimanjaro Tales: The Saga of a Medical Family in Africa, Human Nutrition in Tropical Africa and Human Nutrition in the Developing World" and more than 350 journal articles. He frequently served as a consultant in Africa, Asia and Latin America for the World Health Organization, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and the White House. In 1994 he consulted with Fidel Castro on how to curb Cuba's neuropathy epidemic.