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In Memoriam: Dr. Alan Magill

September 25, 2015 - 08:38 -- Bart G.J. Knols

It is with profound sadness that we took notice today of the untimely death of Dr. Alan Magill, who headed the malaria programme at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. Below we copy the press release from the Gates Foundation.

I met Alan for the first time in Durban, South Africa, during the MIM meeting in 2013. This was not long after he had taken up his new position at the Gates Foundation. This was the man that everyone out of the 1500+ participants would like to talk to, and it was a great privilege that he took some time to sit down and chat with me. It struck me immediately how pleasant Alan was to interact with. Down-to-earth, direct, and above all with passion did he speak of his mission to free the world of malaria. And I vivdly remember his following words: 'Being with the Foundation now gives me the real opportunity to make a difference in this world'.

The second time we met was when I visited the Foundation in January this year. As ever, Alan was pleasant and at the same time razor sharp. He needed two words to understand your full story. Over lunch his passion got hold of him when he stood up and expressed his frustration that we were all going too slow - that we needed to get new technology to the field quicker. Every live mattered, and waiting would only lead to unnecessary waste of lives. So true.

The world has lost a great malariologist. It is now upon us to follow in his footsteps and end malaria.

PRESS RELEASE
 
Statements on Alan Magill, Malaria Program Director
SEATTLE (September 20, 2015)
 
Statement by Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO and Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
 
“It is with profound sadness that we share the news that Alan Magill passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Saturday in Seattle.
 
Alan was an extraordinary leader in the global fight against malaria, as well as a friend, colleague, and mentor to many of you.
 
We all knew Alan to be passionate, super smart and deliberate, but he was also considerate, good humored and above all humble.  He knew just how hard the task of ending malaria would be - but he also believed that every child deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life.  He was convinced that no challenge is equal to the power of the human spirit.
 
In his three years as Director of the Malaria Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Alan challenged his team to transform the vision of a malaria-free world into a reality. His death is a terrible loss, but we’re confident that his incredible moral and intellectual example will inspire others to work even harder to get the job done.
 
Alan was a career military officer prior to joining the foundation, and he carried on the proud military tradition of entrusting each member of his team with a challenge coin. The challenge that he inscribed on that coin – Malaria Delenda Est (Malaria Must Be Defeated) – is not an easy one, and it will not be achieved without decades of hard work.  The biggest tribute we can pay is to embrace his mission.”
 
Statement by Bill and Melinda Gates, Co-Chairs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
 
“The scientific community has lost an amazing leader, and our foundation has lost a treasured friend and colleague.
 
Although Alan led our foundation’s work on malaria, his influence went far beyond any single disease. He had a rare gift for bringing people together and helping them work toward a common goal. He also combined a deep knowledge of science with a hard-earned understanding of what happens out in the field. He knew that insights gained in the laboratory only matter if they improve people’s lives.
 
For the two of us, Alan was a wonderful teacher. He was gentle and easygoing, and he had a delightful sense of humor. We saw his tenderness shine through whenever we had the privilege of traveling with him to developing countries. He recognized the dignity in every person he met. His caring and love for others were undeniable. 
 
Most importantly, Alan never gave up on the idea that humanity can wipe out terrible diseases. His optimism was contagious, to us and everyone else who was lucky enough to know him. When we talk about the kinds of leaders we want at the foundation, we simply say: We want more people like Alan Magill.
 
We will miss Alan’s passion, his intellect, and his guidance. His work will continue through the strategies he set in motion. In the future, people will look back on what he did over the past few years and see it as the basis for eradicating malaria. Alan’s legacy is simple but profound: He saved lives.
 
Our thoughts are with his family and many friends around the world.”