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LSHTM celebrates 120 years of health innovation

Global and public health leaders join staff, students and alumni from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to celebrate the world-leading health research institution's 120th anniversary.
Guests at a 120th anniversary event in the library

Founded by Sir Patrick Manson on 2 October 1899, LSHTM conducts cutting edge research to improve global health worldwide, and trains health workers and leaders through high quality education programmes.

Speaking at a celebratory event in September, LSHTM Director Professor Peter Piot, said: “For 120 years, we have been at the forefront of innovative scientific research and health discoveries, whilst also providing research-led teaching in public and global health. Through our global presence and international partnerships, LSHTM has a proud history of innovation that has had a tangible impact on improving health and health equity, from creating the randomised control methodology and seminal work linking smoking and lung cancer, to impregnated bed nets for malaria control, and pioneering work on Ebola vaccines.” 

“Our 120th anniversary is a momentous occasion which I hope will inspire us all to mobilise and challenge the status quo, applying creative new ideas and tools to generate new possibilities for improving health for all.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, who completed an MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM in 1992, joined the event via video link. He said: “Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. That’s what this institution is doing every day; changing the world.”

Other speakers at the event included Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank (MSc in Health Systems Management 2000), Dame Sally Davies, former Chief Medical Officer for England (LSHTM Honorary Fellow 2015), Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary at the UK Department for International Development and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa (MSc in Community Health for Developing Countries 1986 and LSHTM Honorary Fellow 2018).

Dame Sally said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a fight we’ve only just begun. I want to thank LSHTM for the support you’ve given me in learning how to do this fight. Because it’s not just about science, its politics. It’s about social movements. It’s about the alignment and sharing of agendas. You knew that and you helped me learn it, so that we as a nation can be more effective in this.”

Dr Moeti said: “One of the most important things I learned at LSHTM is about politics and social sciences in relation to health. When I had to sit and listen to lectures about social contexts, political contexts, developing policies, how decisions are made, it enabled me to do the work I am doing every day; negotiating the politics of public health.”  

Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, added: “For 120 years the LSHTM has stood for excellence, honesty, diversity, inclusivity and has addressed the big issues facing us and our planet. It has not shied away from speaking truth to power and to societies around the world. This has never been more important and now is the time to step up, ask the critical questions, provide & use the best available evidence to argue for the things that can enhance lives, argue for the values that you stand for and the sort of world you believe in.”

“For 120 years, we have been at the forefront of innovative scientific research and health discoveries, whilst also providing research-led teaching in public and global health.”

Peter Piot

As part of the 120th anniversary celebrations, LSHTM also received planning permission to add the names of three pioneering women in health to its historic Keppel Street building in London. Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Florence Nightingale and Alice Ball will be added to the frieze that wraps around the iconic building which currently just has the names of 23 male health and tropical medicine experts. LSHTM is also hosting 120 alumni events around the world to bring together our global community.

A special keynote lecture in September featured some of LSHTM’s most illustrious alumni who shared their personal accounts of working on the frontline of innovation in health. Speakers included BBC presenter and doctor Chris van Tulleken (Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene 2006), Chief Executive of The Health Foundation Jennifer Dixon (MSc in Public Health 1990 and a PhD in health services research 1997), leading psychiatric specialist Sir Simon Wessely (MSc in Epidemiology 1989), health technology innovator Dr Precious Lunga (MSc in Epidemiology 2007), and public health specialist Dorcas Gwata (MSc in Public Health 2008). The event was chaired by Lancet Editor Dr Richard Horton and included a closing speech from Dr Joanna Liu, former president of Médecins Sans Frontières. The keynote lecture is available to watch again on the @LSHTM YouTube.

Highlights from some of LSHTM’s many historical innovations from LSHTM are highlighted in a special video for the anniversary.

 

More of our work can be discovered in the LSHTM historical timeline.