Vikram Patel and Francesco Checchi awarded Honorary OBEs

16 January 2017

The School's Professors Vikram Patel and Francesco Checchi have been honoured by Her Majesty The Queen in recognition of exceptional service to their areas of research.

They were both awarded an Honorary Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office awards.

Vikram Patel, Professor of International Mental Health, received the award in recognition of his services to global mental health. His research focuses on addressing the void of mental healthcare in developing countries where there is a shortage of trained psychiatrists and psychologists. He has long been a vocal advocate for advancing mental health services in low-and middle-income regions.

Prof Patel was the founding director of the Centre for Global Mental Health, a partnership between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Kings Health Partners. He is also the co-founder of Sangath, an Indian-based NGO that provides practical solutions to mental healthcare in developing countries, by offering vital training to lay health-workers to deliver frontline psychiatric treatment. This training benefits people who often live in the margins of their communities. In 2015, he was named as one of TIME Magazine's 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

Prof Patel said: "I feel deep gratitude to the United Kingdom not just for this great honour being conferred on me but for having nurtured me for over two decades from the day I landed on her shores as a young doctor, armed with a Rhodes Scholarship. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the role of the great British institution, the Wellcome Trust, which has steadfastly supported my work for two decades, enabling me not only to hold a full time Professorial position in the School, but at the same time to live and work in India to support my program of research on mental health."

Francesco Checchi, Professor of Epidemiology and International Health, was awarded the Honorary OBE in recognition of his services to emergency health crisis abroad, particularly Syria, Central African Republic and the Ebola emergencies. Prof Checchi has extensive expertise in disease control in crises such as armed conflict, natural disasters and epidemics.

In 2013, he published important research highlighting the death toll from severe food insecurity and famine in Somalia between 2010 and 2012. The study estimated it claimed the lives of 258,000 people, of which half were children under five.

Prof Checchi has significant experience in helping formulate policy and deliver operational programmes for crisis response, having previously worked with Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Health Organization and as head of the humanitarian team at Save the Children.

Prof Checchi said: "I am extremely grateful for this unexpected award. Since 2004, the UK has welcomed me and my family and given us generous opportunities to thrive. If I could, I would certainly share nearly all of my medal with the large number of colleagues from Save the Children, the School and other agencies, including national staff, whose humbling dedication and professionalism really underpins, and often surpasses, anything I may have achieved."

Commenting on the honours, Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: "Many congratulations to Vikram and Francesco on receiving these honours, which are thoroughly deserved in recognition of their important research. From extending access to mental health services to people in low-resource communities and raising the profile of this often neglected issue, to working on emergency public health responses in humanitarian crisis situations, their tireless work in their respective fields has helped improve the lives of many around the world."

Prof Piot was awarded an Honorary Knighthood in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Awards for his services to the global response to AIDS and the Ebola epidemic. Professor Nick Black was knighted in the New Year Honours list in recognition for his services to healthcare research.