Professor Doutor Luiz Marino Bechelli
Norma Tiraboschi Foss
25th March 1912
16th August 2004
Prof. Luiz Marino Bechelli, born on March 25th, 1912, in Piramboia, Sao Paulo, graduated in medicine at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo - FMUSP, in 1933. His inclination towards clinical investigation became apparent while still a student, when he was an academic aid at the Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho Syphilis Unit, where he became deputy head in the sixth year of the medical course. He also participated in student activities as secretary of the Scientific Department and Treasurer (president of the Cash Book), both pertaining to the Oswaldo Cruz Academic Center. Basket ball champion in the Faculty of Medicine team, he always loved sport, in all its modalities. He supported Palmeiras soccer team and played tennis. He appreciated art, literature and music, from popular to classic.
His doctoral thesis was accepted in May 1934 and, ever since, he was devoted to the teaching of dermatology and investigation in leprology, and while working as an informal assistant at FMUSP, he presented the findings of his post-doctoral studies in the year of 1947.
Invited by Prof. Dr. Zeferino Vaz, director and founder of the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paulo - FMRP/USP, in August 1957, Prof. Bechelli assumed the responsibility of organizing and developing the Dermatology Department at that university. Post-doctor professor of dermatology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo, he left his private clinic to exert full time practice and exclusive dedication to Teaching, Assistance and Research and research, first as a lecturer, and later as a dermatology professor, hired by in FMRP/USP in April 1961, after public competition.
This tenure track in teaching and research of dermatology was planned in a methodical and constructive manner, based on intense volunteer work combined with investments in his academic development, with the objective of amplifying and updating his expertise. In that sense, he underwent the following postgraduate courses: New York Skin And Cancer, at Columbia University, and Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases and Biostatistics, in the Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, USA, for which he received a grant from the Institute of Inter American Affairs and Leonard Wood Memorial, from July 1944 to July 1945. Updating in the specialty was assured with courses at Hopital St. Louis (Paris, France) and visits to dermatology clinics in Europe, North and South America. He was one of the pioneers in the country when writing, in 1960, with the collaboration of Prof. Guilherme V. Curban, FMUSP, the book entitled Compendium of Dermatology, that constituted an updated source of teaching for the medicine students and dermatologists under his tuition, until its sixth edition in 1988.
On a parallel basis, he entered the Department of Leprosy, in São Paulo, initially as a trainee clinical doctor of the sanatorium of Cocais and, after public competition, as its clinical director. In the Department of Leprosy of São Paulo, which was considered in the decades from 1930 to 1950 to be one of the largest centers of leprosy research in the world, he served in prominent positions as Head of the Epidemiology Unit, Director of the Division of Sanatoriums and, later, of Leprosy Dispensaries. The depth of his professional knowledge acquired in the field of leprology led to his greatest scientific contributions, with approximately 300 publications in the Country and abroad, and his recognition as one of the world's greatest leprologists.
Beyond these administrative positions, he kept the role of director, concomitantly with de position of Head of the Department of Dermatology, both at FMRP/USP. His career reached its higher point with the international recognition of his activity as a leprologist, from December 30, 1961 to June 30, 1972, in the position of expert and Head of Leprosy Unit at the World Health Organization, after an international public competition held in Geneva, Switzerland.
His valuable academic production was crowned with contributions in describing the clinical course and epidemiological evaluation of the endemia of leprosy in our Country. In that sense, the Brazilian Treaty of Leprology and Compendium of Leprology were published, both in co-authorship with Abrahao Rotberg, constituted a landmark in the study of the disease. Prof. Bechelli was also one of the leaders in the proposition of the Brazilian Classification of Leprosy, that came to be adopted at a world level. Among the 275 works that he published, many of which with original contributions and some with ultramicroscopic dermatoses, he wrote 12 award winning monographs. Besides the above mentioned contributions, one should emphasize his authorship of the chapters "Premunition der Lepra" and "Behandlung der Lepra" in the monumental Handbuch der Haut und Geschlechtskrankheiten, de Jadassohn, republished by Marchionini. In the book of Veronesi, on infectious and parasitic diseases, he wrote the chapters on leprosy, bubo and pinta. He also collaborated in other foreign textbooks, such as that of Dharmendra and de Chatterjee, and in Theory and Practice of Public Health, published by the Oxford-University Press.
His interest in the medical science can be measured by his active participation in countless medical societies and in Brazilian and foreign Congresses, with the following prominent societies:
Honorary member of the following societies: Association des Leprologues de langue Française, Sociedade de Dermatologia y Sifiligrafia, Sociedade Cubana de Dermatologia y Sifiligrafia, Sociedade Brasileira de Hansenologia, Societe de Pathologie Exotique, Sociedade Argentina de Dermatologia, Colegio Ibero-Latino-Americano de Dermatologia e Sociedade Brasileira de Dermatologia
Corresponding member of: Societa Italiana di Dermatologia e Sifiligrafia, Societe Française de dermatologie et Syphiligraphie.
Affiliated to Royal Society of Medicine, London.
General Secretary of the II and III Confederação Pan-Americana de Lepra (Rio de Janeiro, 1946 and Buenos Aires, 1951).
Director of Manila Regional Seminar on Leprosy, as well as other events of the WHO, West Regional Pacific Office, in Tahiti.
Member of Advisory Board of the PA HO.
General secretary, vice-president and president of the Sociedade Paulista de Medicina.
Member of Council of International Leprosy Association (1958-1982) and collaborating editor of International Journal of Leprosy.
Coordinator of the Leprosy Control Committee at the X International Congress of Leprosy - ICL, Bergen, 1973.
Coordinator of the session on Epidemiology and Control at the XI International Congress of Leprosy, Mexico, 1978; member of the Committee of Epidemiology and Control in the ICLs of Havana, 1948, and Rio de Janeiro, 1963.
Member of the Committee of Immunology of the VI International Congress of Leprosy of 1952, in Madrid, and VII Congress in Tokyo, 1958.
On concluding activities at the WHO, in July 1972, he assumed the position of Head of the Dermatology Division, Department of Clinical Medicine FMRP/USP until March 1982, when he received compulsory retirement. However, although retired, he continued working at the university, as a collaborating professor of the Dermatology course. These were 14 years of voluntary work, described by him in the following words: "I worked without payment in order to compensate the University for the years that I was not present, while being devoted to the World Health Organization". Every year, he assisted Prof. Cottenot in the leprology specialization course, held in Paris.
The Dermatology Division, at the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto owes much of its excellence in the teaching and practice of the specialty to master Bechelli. The recognition of his important role in the construction of the history of this service, and even of the institution itself, came through countless homages. In 1994, he received the title of Professor Emeritus of FMRP/USP. In 1991, the Academic Center of FMRP founded the League of Combat Against Leprosy Professor Luiz Marino Bechelli. In 1997, the University's Dermatology Division, located on the fourth floor of the Clinicas Hospital of Ribeirao Preto, was renamed Division of Dermatology Professor Luiz Marino Bechelli. In the Brazilian Congress of Leprosy, in Foz do Iguaçu, one could read the insignia on all the students' shirts: League of Combat Against Leprosy L.M. Bechelli.
Another significant homage was paid to him by the Brazilian Society of Leprology in 1999, of which he was one of the founders.
Married to Laura Bechelli, mother of their six children and extraordinary companion, she was also responsible for his success, he became a widower in 1978 and, in 1982, he married Maria Helena Machado Bechelli, associate teacher of the Ribeirao Preto School of Nursing, USP; in her he found all the support and incentive for scientific work. Bechelli affirmed that he had won two great lottery prizes.
He had five daughters and one son, a doctor, foreign assistant of the University Claude-Bernard, Lyon, France, associate teacher of psychiatry at the Teresopolis University of Medicine and general secretary of the Brazilian Society of Biological Psychiatry. Eight grandchildren, of which three doctors, one of these a dermatologist, and a great-granddaughter completed his family.
We, at the Dermatology Division of the Clinical Medicine Department, FMRP, together with the leprologists and dermatologists of this country, demonstrate our gratitude for all the contribution that his work has brought for knowledge on leprosy and other dermatoses, and seek to reach the same dedication, respect for the patient and immense scientific capacity. We hope to continue his grandiose work, and we pray that his journey continues with deserved peace and serenity
1. Bechelli LM. Memorial apresentado à FMRP/USP, para o Concurso de Professor Catedrático. Ribeirão Preto, 1960.
2. Azulay RD. Jubileu do Prof. Luiz Marino Bechelli (Editorial). An Bras Dermatol. 1990;65: 3-4.
3. Rossini C, Forgerini E. Medicina e Fé - Dr. Luiz Marino Bechelli. In: Mestres da Dermatologia Paulista. 1ª ed. São Paulo: JSN Editora Ltda; 2002. p.80-103.
Publication in this collection
29 May 2006
Date of issue