The feature by Dr Mark A. Sammut (The Sunday Times, January 15) reminded readers of the literary contributions made by Dr Ruzar Briffa, who can be rightly described as one of the pillars of Maltese literature and a central figure in the foundation of the Ghaqda tal-Malti - Università in 1931.
Because of his gigantic contributions to Maltese literature, his medical contributions are very often forgotten and put aside. Dr Briffa was one of the leading torch-bearers in the control of leprosy in Malta.
After graduating in medicine from the University of Malta in 1931, he was awarded the Strachan Travelling Scholarship, enabling him to proceed to London Institute of Dermatology where he followed an academic and practical course in the pathology and bacteriology of skin diseases.
On his return to Malta in 1932, he was a junior doctor in the Skin Disease Section at the Floriana Central Hospital. In 1938, he was appointed Leprosy Control Officer and proceeded to the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine where he obtained first-hand experience in the manifestation and treatment of leprosy.
As Leprosy Control Officer and visiting consultant to St Batholomew's Leprosarium (1944), he continuously strove to combat the disease in the Maltese Islands by improving the living conditions of the inmates at the leprosarium and introducing innovative treatment protocols soon after they became available. He also promoted the removal of compulsory segregation of lepers, a regulation finally abolished in 1953.
Throughout his career, he maintained professional integrity by visiting centres of excellence, like the Reparto Dermo-Sifilopatico in Catania in 1949, and attending refresher courses, such as the one in leprology and skin disease at the Policlinico of Rome. In 1950, he was appointed senior consultant in dermatology at the Central Hospital and lecturer in dermatology and leprology at the University - thus ensuring a clear understanding of the disease to future practitioners.
His contribution to the field of leprology in Malta was acknowledged posthumously in 1973 when the former St Bartholomew's Leprosarium was renamed Sptar Ruzar Briffa (after 1980 converted into an extension of St Vincent de Paul Hospital). In 1988, he was conferred the Pro Merito Melitense decoration by the Sovereign Military Order of St John.
While it is fitting to remember Dr Briffa's contribution to Maltese literature, it is also fitting to acknowledge his significant contributions to leprology especially since his death anniversary comes so close to World Leprosy Day.
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