A group of alumni of the Cornell International Nutrition Program are gathering in Ithaca this week to honor the work, life and ideas of their friend and mentor, Michael Latham, M.D., Cornell professor of international nutritional sciences. The celebration includes scientific sessions, free and open to the public on Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, to discuss the vital nutrition issues to which Latham has devoted his professional life.
More than 25 former students and research associates from about a dozen countries will be on hand to discuss these timely topics in Room 200, Savage Hall, on the Cornell campus. Here is the schedule for the scientific sessions open to the public:
Friday, 1 to 5:30 p.m.:
- Interventions to improve public nutrition
- Nutrition as a human right
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Maternal and child nutrition
- Food systems/long term consequences
More than 100 people have received advanced degrees under the guidance of Latham at Cornell; these graduates now work around the world.
"Dr. Latham had the ability to bring out the best in us," said Usha Ramakrishnan, Ph.D. '93 now at Emory University. "Without telling us specifically what to do, he encouraged us. He saw -- more than we did -- what our strengths were. That is an art and a judgment."
Jean-Pierre Habicht, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences, agrees: "Michael touches people. He has a special gift for making people believe in themselves."
Latham, a physician, stepped down several years ago as director of Cornell's Program in International Nutrition after 25 years. An expert in international nutrition and tropical public health, he also is author of several books, including Kilimanjaro Tales: The Saga of a Medical Family in Africa, Human Nutrition in Tropical Africa and Human Nutrition in the Developing World, and more than 350 journal articles. He frequently serves as a consultant in Africa, Asia and Latin America for WHO, FAO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the White House. In 1994, he consulted with Fidel Castro on how to curb Cuba's neuropathy epidemic.
In 1965 at age 37, Latham was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his work on developing the nutrition unit. The award also recognized his leadership in establishing the International School, an integrated primary school in Dar es Salaam.