Dr. Ruth Pfau’s 90th Birthday – “I could not believe that humans could live in such conditions,” said German doctor Ruth Pfau, remembering her first impressions of a Pakistani leper colony. Today’s Doodle celebrates Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau, born in Leipzig, Germany on this day in 1929. She devoted herself to eradicating leprosy from Pakistan, saving countless lives.
Dr. Pfau was inspired to become a nun at age 29 after meeting a concentration camp survivor. While traveling to India, she was waylaid in Pakistan by visa issues and paid a life-changing visit to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Clinic in Karachi.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is caused by a bacterial infection that can now be prevented and cured, but the disease has historically caused sufferers to be ostracized and stigmatized for disfiguration.
Dr. Pfau was struck by the plight of one patient in particular: “He must have been my age—I was at this time not yet 30—and he crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal.”
Dr. Pfau raised funds to refurbish the clinic, building up a network of over 150 modern medical centers, including physiotherapy units, workshops to manufacture artificial limbs, and homes for the handicapped. She started Pakistan’s first Leprosy Technicians’ course in 1965 and educated the public to combat the stigma associated with the disease.
As a result of her efforts, the World Health Organization declared leprosy under control in Pakistan by 1996—earlier than most other Asian countries. Often compared to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dr. Pfau received numerous national and international awards for her lifelong service to humanity.
Early concepts by artist Alyssa Winans
You can find more about Dr. Ruth Pfau’s 90th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page