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Jean Waston - TLM Hero

A black and white photo of a woman with short hair in a white cardigan

Originally from Nottingham, England, Jean Watson dedicated her life to working in leprosy.

She started her life in physiotherapy studying and working in London before receiving leprosy training in the early 1960s at Karigiri. India.

Working with The Leprosy Mission, Jean served as the only qualified physiotherapist at Hay Ling Chau, Hong Kong; the National Leprosy Control Centre, Sungei Buloh, Malaysia, and the Darwin Leprosy Hospital, Darwin, Australia.

These assignments involved intensive activities in establishing departments of physiotherapy for leprosy patients, and in training large numbers of staff members in the prevention and management of disabilities.

In 1972, Jean began a 7-year tenure at the renowned All-Africa Leprosy and Rehabilitation Training Centre (ALERT) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as Chief of Physiotherapy. While there she trained many hundreds of leprosy workers from all over Africa.

In 1979 Jean was selected by TLMI as a Physiotherapist Consultant and continued in this capacity through February 1995. She was responsible for advising TLMI and all of the countries they collaborated with throughout the world on priorities and methods in the management of disability and the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those with disabilities from other causes.

After 1995, Jean became Project Director for the National Leprosy Rehabilitation Project, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in China.

Jean Watson has written several books on the prevention of disabilities in leprosy, and all have been translated into numerous foreign languages. She also has contributed many scientific articles on disability in leprosy.

For her contributions to the alleviation of human suffering and advancement of the social improvement of the disabled, especially those with leprosy, Ms Watson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. In 1996 she was awarded the International Gandhi Award. An excerpt from the citation of the Gandhi Award, read by the President of India, follows: "... Ms Jean Margaret Watson, a specialist in physiotherapy and consultant in prevention of disabilities and advisor in rehabilitation. ... Her writings and teachings are a treasure for health workers all over the world. The life and work of Ms Jean Watson ... is a luminous chapter in the story of human struggle against leprosy.... May your exemplary humanitarian service inspire the generations to come to follow in your footsteps."

Anyone who has gone through leprosy training before 2000 (and possibly even after) will have come across Jean Watson’s book ‘Preventing Disability in Leprosy’. Her legacy is thousands of people trained in treating leprosy-related disability.