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Death of Dr. Carlos Tejada

It is with profound grief that we heard the sad news of the death of Dr. Carlos Tejada Valenzuela, on Tuesday, 3 May, in Guatemala, at the age of 81.

On behalf of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization and myself, I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his family and colleagues at INCAP.

Dr. Tejada served as Director of the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) from 1975 to 1980. Prior to that (1969-1974) he had been at the helm of INCAP’S Center for Advanced Studies in Nutrition and Food Sciences (CESNA).

He was a prominent Guatemalan scientist who, after receiving a medical degree from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, taught graduate and training courses in Havana, Cuba, at the Cancer Institute of Villejuif, France, and at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was the author of more than 50 scientific articles on nutrition, pathology, and related fields. His contributions to the science are found in international journals, such as The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The American Journal of Pathology, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Pediatrics, Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición, and the Boletín de la Oficina Sanitaria Panamericana.

He was a member of associations such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Public Health Association (United States), the Association of Anatomists (France), the Association for the Study of Cancer (France), and the Latin American Society for Nutrition. He was Chair of the Committee of Food Sciences Schools and Domestic and Nutritional Economy of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences.

With his sound scientific training, he was an undisputed expert in his field, both in his country and Central America. He devoted a great deal of his scientific work to describing the problem of protein-calorie malnutrition and its diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and he played a key role in the training of human resources specializing in nutrition and research.

Dr. Tejada’s death represents a great loss to the scientific community, because it has lost an indefatigable crusader for nutritional health.

Mirta Roses
Director


 Sandwich Notch Farm N.H. May  2011

 

In Memorium:  Carlos Tejada Valenzuela
By Nevin S. Scrimshaw, Founding Director, INCAP (1949-61)

When Carlos Tejada Valenzuela returned to Guatemala soon after the inauguration of INCAP, he came to my office  to explore  research opportunities. It was immediately apparent from his training , interests and enthusiasm that he would be a tremendous asset  to  the fledgling Institute.  I immediately offered him an appointment to establish a Division of Nutritional Pathology and was delighted when  he accepted. I  later learned that he had been given an award for the outstanding Pathology Resident over the past 10 years at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Moreover, his wife, Isabel Castillo de Tejada had worked in the pathology laboratory at MGH and was able to set up his research laboratory in INCAP and train technicians for it. She deserves credit and appreciation for this and for the strong support of her husband in his dedication to INCAP.

Pilo, as he was known by his friends and colleagues,  was soon adding importantly to the scientific quality and productivity of INCAP.  His studies of the nutrition  related pathology of the living Maya were among the most useful of INCAP’s early research publications.  Later, he was  the leader of the famous  Inter- American Atherosclerosis Study, (1959-65) based  in INCAP and organized in collaboration with pathologists at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia and Louisiana  State University in New Orleans. Aortas and coronary vessels  from more than 22,000 serial autopsies in 12 General Hospitals in Latin America and one each in New Orleans and Oslo  were randomized and blindly graded by their  degree of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis was rarely clinically significant in the specimens from Latin American Hospitals.  Those individuals from the two industrialized country hospitals began to develop atherosclerosis in their third decade. The factor that correlated most significantly was the proportion of fat calories in the diet. At the time this had not been established.
Another seminal contribution of  Tejada  to the global reputation of INCAP was  the  successful commercialization of INCAPARINA.   A number of senior INCAP  professionals were involved in  the conceptualization, testing in experimental animals, trials in well-nourished children, demonstration that it could be used in the treatment of kwashiorkor, and in development of local sources for the raw materials. INCAPARINA was equivalent in nutritive value at 1/5 the cost of fresh milk, and compatible with local beliefs and culinary practices. Field trials demonstrated that mothers preferred it to dried skim milk for their children. However, we had no way of producing and distributing it on a national scale. Tejada took on this challenge and solved it with remarkable dedication and lasting success.  Its use continues to grow in Central America nearly 40 years later.

Tejada also deserves  great credit for his strong and effective support of the training programs for which INCAP became so widely  known and appreciated.  The first of these gave an opportunity for  physicians  and pharmacy students from member country universities to do research in INCAP for their senior theses.  To this was added the Master’s Degree programs in Nutrition and Food science and in Nutritional Biochemistry.. When Susanna Icaza proposed an INCAP school for the training of dieticians and nutritionists, it was Tejada’s strong  support and arrangements for the professional degree to be presented through the University of San Carlos that made this a reality. I was also impressed with the public health nutrition training program for physicians that Tejada established in Chimaltenango.

INCAP was inaugurated in 1949 . Twelve years later  it was staffed by a superb group of well trained  Central American scientists. My assignment as Founding Director had been to build a Central American Institute with appropriate staff for future INCAP leadership. Very reluctantly I realized that it was my obligation to leave the Institute wholly in the hands of its Central American professionals.. That this was an appropriate decision was confirmed by the fact that INCAP continued to  grow and flourish under its next  Director, the Guatemalan physician, Moises Behar.  After 13 years he was called to become Head of the Nutrition Unit of WHO in Geneva..  As long planned, Tejada became the third Director.  When I visited INCAP in his fourth year as Director, I was greatly impressed  by the way in which he had expanded its scope and was taking it to new levels of relevance and achievement. 

Little could I know that in another year the dream would be shattered by his kidnapping from a staff meeting along with the Administrator of INCAP. The experience was so traumatic for him that after he was released he never returned. The loss to INCAP was compounded when Fernando Viteri, who had been next in line for the leadership, and Reynaldo Martorell were forced by threats to leave Guatemala with their families. Both have had very distinguished careers in the U.S. that should have been at INCAP 

One of my most cherished memories will always be the dinner with the Tejadas in their home in Guatemala only three years ago with my wife, Mary, and Susana Icaza. On this occasion we relived the remarkable first 36 years of INCAP in which Tejada played such a prominent role.  Few persons have contributed so much and so unselfishly to the building of any institution. He  served INCAP equally well as scientist, educator, entrepreneur and administrator. There are few persons for whom I have such a high regard. 

 
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