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On-line version ISSN 1806-4841
An. Bras. Dermatol. vol.77 no.5 Rio de Janeiro Sept./Oct. 2002
Rubem David Azulay
Chairman of the Institute of Dermatology, Santa Casa da Misericórdia, Rio de Janeiro. Emeritus Professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Fluminense Federal University. Titular Professor at the Gama Filho University, Fundação Técnico Educacional Souza Marques and of Cesanta
It is with enormous pleasure that we dedicate this Editorial to Prof. Dr. Luiz Bechelli, who is completing his 90th birthday, yet continues to work for his fellow citizens' well-being, despite having requested his retirement in 1982.
Born on March 25, 1912, in Pirambóia, São Paulo, Bechelli graduated in medicine from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (FM-USP) in 1933. Ever since, he has been devoted like few others to leprology research, having published a series of works in Brazil and abroad. At the same time, he has been dedicated to the teaching of Dermatology, achieving a methodical and progressive career. One year after graduating he presented his doctoral thesis at FM-USP. From 1946 to 1957 he fulfilled, with merit, the functions of voluntary assistant at the same university, where in 1947, he became professor of Dermatology. In August 1957, he entered the University of Ribeirão Preto, initially as a contracted teacher and, soon afterwards (April, 1961), as professor, working in a regime of exclusive devotion until retirement, having served as vice-head of the Department of Clinical Medicine. He also exercised leadership of the Dermatology Service of this university. In the years of 1959 and 1960 he was promoted to director of the same institution, temporarily substituting Prof. Zeferino Vaz.
After 14 years of activity, he submitted his retirement, on March 4, 1990, at 84 years of age. It deserves highlighting that in 1994 he received the honorary title of Professor Emeritus of the University of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto.
It should be underscored that while studying to become a dermatologist he specialized at the New York Skin and Cancer course of the Columbia University (1944-1945). Furthermore, he worked as a trainee in the St. Louis Hospital (Paris) and visited various dermatological clinics in Europe and Asia as well as North and South America. His Dermatology textbook, entitled Summary of Dermatology, with the collaboration of Dr. Curban, is a reference source for medical students and dermatologists in training. The book has been continually updated via new editions and is an essential part of the daily practice of all dermatologists.
His greatest scientific and professional contribution was made in the field of leprology - his works and intense professional activity lead him to exercise practically all the official positions of this specialty, culminating with that of expert and head of the Leprosy Unit in the World Health Organization, Geneva, for almost 10 years.
He began the leprology studies in the then Department of Prophylaxis of Leprosy, in São Paulo. In 1934, he was a medical trainee and in the following year, after public contest, became a clinical doctor at the Sanatorium of Cocais and, later, its clinical director. In this department he exercised the following main functions: Head of the Epidemiology Unit, director of the Division of Sanatoriums and then of the Leprosy Dispensaries; it is fitting to give special mention to the fact that the Department of Leprosy of São Paulo was, in the decades from 1930 to 1950, one of the largest centers for the study and investigation of leprosy in the world and counted on a notable group of doctors, especially Abrahão Rotberg, Lauro de Souza Lima and Nelson de Souza Campos. It was from this eminent circle that the first concepts of a Brazilian classification of leprosy appeared, with the collaboration of other leprology researchers, such as Francisco Eduardo Rabelo, from Rio de Janeiro.
This classification grew to become Brazilian-Argentinean, South American, Pan-American and finally to be accepted on a worldwide basis. Bechelli was one of the main authors of the Brazilian Textbook of Leprology (several volumes).
In 1951, in conjunction with Rotberg, the Compendium of Leprology came to light, amounting to 634 pages of invaluable text with extensive and original photographic documentation. He was also author of the chapters Premunition der Lepra and Behandlung der Lepra in the monumental Handbuch des Haut im Gerchlechtskrankenheiten, by Yadasshon and republished by Marchionini. Regarding the book by Veronesi entitled Doenças Infecciosas e Parasitárias, he wrote the chapters on leprosy, mycosis framboesioides and spotted sickness. He also collaborated in other foreign textbooks, such as that of Dharmendra and de Chatterjee, Theory and Practice of Public Health, Oxford-University Press. In all, Bechelli published 275 works, many of which with original contributions and some even with ultramicroscopy of dermatoses. Twelve of his monographs were award-winnings.
His students, through the Academic Center of the University of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto (FMRP, USP), founded the Prof. L.M. Bechelli League to Combat Leprosy. Likewise, at the Hospital das Clínicas of the University of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, the fourth floor was named the Prof. L. M. Bechelli Division of Dermatology.
Bechelli always exercised an associative scientific life, as reflected by his active participation in countless medical societies and Brazilian and foreign Congresses, notably:
n Honorary Member of the following societies: Association des Léprogues de Langue Française, Sociedad de Dermatología y Sifiligrafía del Uruguai, Sociedad Cubana de Dermatología y Sifilografía, Sociedade Brasileira de Hansenologia, Societé de Pathologie Exotique, Sociedad Argentina de Dermatología, Colegio Ibero-Latino-Americano de Dermatología and Sociedade Brasileira de Dermatologia.
n Active member of the New York Academy of Sciences.
n Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
n Corresponding member of the: Società Italiana di Dermatologia e Sifilografia, Societé Française de Dermatologie et Syphiligraphie, among others.
n Affiliated to the Royal Society of Medicine, London.
n General-Secretary of the II and III Confederação Pan-Americana de Lepra (Rio de Janeiro, 1946 and Buenos Aires, 1951).
n Director of the Manila Regional Seminar on Leprosy, WHO and of another WHO event, West Pacific Regional Office, in Tahiti.
n Participated in the revision of the International Nomenclature of Diseases, vol. II; Infectious Diseases, 1st. Edition, Cioms, Geneva.
n Member of the Advisory Board of Paho.
n General Secretary, Vice-President and President of the Sociedade Paulista de Medicina.
n Council member of the International Leprosy Association (1958-1982).
n Contributing Editor to the International Journal of Leprosy.
n Coordinator of the Leprosy Control Committee at the X International Leprosy Congress, Bergen, 1973.
n Coordinator of the epidemiology and control session at the XI International Leprosy Congress, Mexico, 1978.
n Member of the Epidemiology and Control Committee in the International Leprosy Congress, Havana, 1948 and Rio de Janeiro, 1963.
n Member of the Immunology Committee of the VI International Leprosy Congress, Madrid, 1952, and Tokyo, 1958.
n Participated in the Congresso Brasileiro de Hansenologia, Foz do Iguaçu, 1996. Presided the leprosy control session and on closing this affirmed that there was no ideal drug available, such as penicillin for syphilis, nor a vaccine such as BCG for the prevention of tuberculosis. Furthermore that the socioeconomic conditions were unfavorable in the endemic regions. In view of which it would not appear possible to achieve a global elimination of leprosy as a public health problem by the year 2000.
n Received homage from the Sociedade Brasileira de Hansenologia (1999).
Although retired, he continues working, albeit at a more mannered rhythm, in the Dermatology Department of the FMRP, USP, and has published several works. He presided the last two public contests for professor of clinical medicine at the same university. He annually collaborates with professor Cottenot at the Leprology specialization Course, in Paris.
He has lectured on leprosy and or deep mycoses in departments of the universities of medicine of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Geneva and Lausanne (Switzerland), New York, Saint Louis (Missouri) and Birmingham (USA). In China he had the opportunity of pronouncing the prospects of controlling leprosy in the world to a conference held at the University of Peking. He also spoke at the conference of Epidemiological survey of skin diseases in school children in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, at the Jeangsu Provincial People's Hospital Najing.
He married Laura Bechelli, who was an extraordinary companion and contributed enormously to his success. He became a widower in 1978, and married again in 1982 to Maria Helena Machado Bechelli, an associated professor of the School of Nursing of Ribeirão Preto, USP, in whom he has found much support and encouragement for scientific work. Bechelli affirms that he won two great prizes at the lottery.
He has five daughters and one son, plus eight grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. I highlight the fact that medicine is the greatest area to which his family is dedicated: a profession practiced with love and intelligence by a son, a son-in-law, two grandchildren and a granddaughter. It is beyond the limits of this Editorial to describe them all, thus I will limit myself to his son, Luiz Paulo de Campos Bechelli: who has a residency in psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lyon (France). He has published some 50 works, notably a textbook entitled Esquizofrenia: atualização em diagnóstico e tratamento, of which he is the co-author. Recently, with his friend Santos, he has written Psicoterapia de grupo: noções básicas. He was president of the São Paulo Society of Clinical Psychiatry. It should be added that one of his grandsons is a dermatologist.
Basketball champion at FM-USP, Bechelli always loved sport, in all of its modalities He supports Palmeiras football club and plays tennis. He loves art, literature and music, from popular to classical. I had the privilege of living with him on a daily basis for one year, in the United States, while we were taking our masters degree course at the Columbia and Western Reserve Universities with grants form the Leonard Wood Memorial (1944-45). Also a member of this group was the Venezuelan Jacinto Convit.
One of his main personal characteristics is scientific dialogue, discussion of medical matters and above all leprology. Undoubtedly these discussions and some disagreement, were the basis for leprosy management strategies effected in São Paulo (Bechelli), Caracas (Convit) and Rio de Janeiro (Azulay) and that culminated in new and relevant contributions to knowledge of the immunopathology of leprosy.
Another major characteristic of Bechelli is his religiosity: a practicing Catholic, with unshaken faith. His attitudes bear the mark of honesty and seriousness. Education and austere character rank among his other qualities.
Received in August,
1st of 2002.
Approved by the Editorial Council and accepted for publication in August, 4th of 2002.