Aileen Joy Plant (née Parnell)

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 10 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1010
  1. Melissa Sweet

    An Australian infectious disease epidemiologist widely admired for her global work controlling disease outbreaks and for her capacity for friendship

    A leading Australian infectious diseases epidemiologist, Aileen Plant, who played a key in controlling Vietnam's SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003, has died suddenly and unexpectedly.

    Aileen, 58, professor of international health at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, collapsed at Jakarta airport, while on her way home from a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on avian influenza. A heart attack was initially suspected but an autopsy identified acute haemorrhagic pancreatitis as the cause of death.

    The WHO was quick in issuing glowing tributes recognising her international work on its behalf, from Africa to Asia. Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, described Aileen as “an outstanding global public health leader.”

    “She never hesitated to travel to the places she was needed,” Dr Chan wrote in an email to WHO staff. “And we needed her, many, many times, in extremely challenging situations. She brought a deep sense of duty, commitment, vast experience, ethics, courage, and professionalism to her work.”

    Dr David Heymann, the WHO's assistant director-general—communicable diseases, a long-time colleague and friend, noted her skills, humility, and compassion. “Aileen will live on through those whom she has helped throughout …

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