Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

New foundation honors Dr. Carlo Urbani

SARS FIGHTER Urbani Foundation chairman Lee Ming-liang says the Italian doctor's commitment to medicine and humanitarianism transcended national boundaries

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health (DOH) established a foundation yesterday in remembrance of Dr. Carlo Urbani, the Italian epidemiologist who first alerted the world to a pneumonia-like emerging disease that was later identified as SARS.

SARS took Urbani's life on March 29. He was 46.

"The primary aim of the foundation is to spread the Urbani spirit," said Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), co-chairman of the Cabinet's SARS-prevention committee and now the foundation's chairman.

Describing Urbani as a medical professional with deep humanitarian concerns, Lee said the work of the one-time president of Medecins Sans Frontieres showed no discrimination against countries.

"National boundaries did not hinder Urbani's commitment to medical work. This is the spirit the foundation is built upon," Lee said.

During the SARS outbreak, which claimed 84 lives in Taiwan, the private sector and the public donated more than NT$330 million to help fight the disease.

As the disease has faded, the foundation will use the donations to promote various health measures, Lee said.

Urbani was an infectious-disease specialist in the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Hanoi.

The WHO asked him to provide advice on a case of suspected atypical pneumonia in an American businessman who had been admitted to the city's French hospital in late February.

Understanding the severity of the syndrome, Urbani advised hospital staff about protective measures, including patient isolation, high-filter masks and double gowning.

But he was infected with the disease and died after fighting the illness for three weeks in a Bangkok hospital.

His wife Giuliana and three children survived him. Lee said the foundation plans to invite Giuliana to visit Taiwan.

On May 19, Giuliana, on the invitation of Giovanni Juang (莊振澤), a Taiwanese businessman based in Italy, attended the "Taiwan Night" dinner hosted by the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan in Geneva.

The dinner was held after Taiwan's application to join the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest decision-making body, as an observer was rejected earlier the same day.

First lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), now on a nine-day trip to Europe, is scheduled to meet Giuliana in Italy.

Lee said the date for Giuliana's visit to Taiwan has yet to be fixed.

The foundation will also seek cooperation with Urbani International, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Lee said.

Yang Han-chuan, vice director-general of the DOH, said Taiwan contributed a donation for the establishment of the organization.

Lee said the founding of the Urbani Foundation has nothing to do with the country's bid to join the WHO.

About NT$60 million was budgeted for the foundation's first year, Lee said.

The health measures promoted by the foundation will focus primarily on SARS and other emerging diseases such as AIDS and the Hanta virus.

According to Lee, the foundation plans to publish a biography of Urbani in Chinese and English.

The foundation will also look for Taiwanese health workers who have the Urbani spirit and publish a book of their stories. The foundation will also collect stories of the 84 lives claimed by SARS, Lee said.

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