It is with great sadness that I received the news that Humberto Romero Alvarez, winner of the 1994 Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Leadership in Inter-American Health, passed away on February 13 in Mexico City. My deepest sympathy goes to his family, friends, and former colleagues.Born in 1923 in Ometepec, Guerrero, Mexico, Engineer Romero Alvarez dedicated more than half a century to improving human health and protecting the environment in Latin America. His successful leadership of Mexico's national malaria eradication campaign was among the highlights of his career, as was his participation in the World Health Organization's global malaria campaign during the 1960s. He helped establish Mexico's first Master's in Sanitary Engineering, at the Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM), and left his imprint on the field of water and sanitation management through his technical recommendations for maintaining water quality and making sanitation more effective in protecting health. He also authored the 1975 volume Health without Borders, which told the history of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Association during its first 30 years.
In recognition of his contributions to public health, Romero Alvarez was accepted as the first non-physician member of Mexico's National Academy of Medicine. He was also honored with the 1963 Medalla al Mérito Sanitario, Mexico's highest presidential honor for excellence in the field of public health.
Romero Alvarez's collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) included consulting on integrating environmental health into efforts to strengthen local health systems and the development of guidelines and policies on sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean. A strong believer in the need to integrate health, the environment, and education, he shared and promoted the philosophy of Abraham Horwitz that "health is a social product that is everyone's responsibility."
In addition to being a distinguished professional, Romero Alvarez was also a trusted colleague who always extended a helping hand to those who needed it. His friends and colleagues will always remember him with respect and affection. He is survived by three children and six grandchildren, and while his passing is a great loss, his life leaves us with his example of generosity, professional decency, dedication, and his willingness to help his country, his family, and all those who had the chance to know him.
Mirta Roses Periago
Pan American Health Organization