Dr. Bénédicte Contamin, Fondation Mérieux’s leading figure in Madagascar, passes away

August 24, 2015 - Lyon (France)


Fondation Mérieux mourns the loss of Dr. Bénédicte Contamin, its regional director for the Indian Ocean, based in Madagascar for close to a decade. She passed away Friday, August 21st after a battle with cancer.

All those who were fortunate to know Bénédicte appreciated her generosity, her enthusiasm and her passion for access to health for all. She devoted her life to the care of the most vulnerable, especially children.

Bénédicte was a physician, specialized in internal medicine and infectious and tropical diseases. Before joining Fondation Mérieux in 2006, she was the Senior Registrar assistant in infectiology in Prof. Dominique Peyramond’s department at the Hospices Civils de Lyon (Lyon Civil Hospitals) where she worked closely with Dr. Christophe Mérieux. She then practiced medicine at the Pointe-à-Pitre University Hospital in Guadeloupe and in Réunion where she was appointed hospital practitioner in 2002.

For almost ten years, she contributed to clinical biology and access to healthcare for the Malgasy population.

Bénédicte launched Fondation Mérieux’s first mission in Madagascar in 2006 and oversaw the creation of the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease, built on the University of Antananarivo campus in 2010. Her first initiative was strengthening the capacities of the Ansirabé Hospital laboratory. The success of this project resulted in the development of a model that could be applied to other sites and a close collaboration with the Madagascar Ministry of Health. Five other laboratories have since been renovated and their personnel and that of other health centers have been trained. Bénédicte brought her expertise to the research projects of the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory at the Center for Infectious Disease. Her work focused on diseases that are prevalent in Madagascar: leprosy, neglected tropical diseases, diarrheal disease in children and meningitis. She also contributed to research projects with an international scope, including the GABRIEL network’s multicenter study on the pathogens responsible for severe pneumonia in children under 5 years of age.

Beyond the scientific domain, Bénédicte Contamin was instrumental in Fondation Mérieux’s support to local charitable organizations. These include Père Pedro’s Akamasoa (“good friends”) association for which, most recently, the Foundation renovated a homeless shelter for families, and the Vahatra association, for which it supported the creation of a health insurance plan.

Her death is a great loss, not only for Fondation Mérieux and the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease, but also for the underprivileged populations she cared for with passion.