With great sadness the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health announces the passing earlier this week of State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. He devoted 43 years of his life to public health, and Louisiana was fortunate that over 26 of those years were with the Office of Public Health.
“Dr. Ratard was an exceptional public health professional and he guided our state through public health responses to West Nile virus, H1N1, Ebola preparation, response to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri and a significant number of environmental and toxicology issues throughout the state,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “He was a servant leader and dedicated his career to improving lives. Donna and I express our deepest condolences to Dr. Ratard’s family and to those from the Department of Health who worked closely with him and loved him.”
In addition to his work in Louisiana, which also included tuberculosis and STD, Dr. Ratard led other states and countries in the response to many emerging disease outbreaks: malaria and leprosy control in Vanuatu, leprosy control in Texas, tuberculosis in North Carolina, schistosomiasis in Cameroon, hospital infection control in Saudi Arabia, influenza surveillance in several African countries and Ebola control in Mali.
“Dr. Ratard was a force within the Department of Health and our whole region,” Assistant Secretary Dr. Alex Billioux said. “He trained future generations of epidemiologists and set Louisiana on the path forward to respond to public health outbreaks. He also contributed to our success to reduce HIV rates and tuberculosis rates.”
Dr. Ratard taught infectious disease epidemiology at the University of South Florida School of Public Health in Tampa, Florida and served as adjunct faculty at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health in New Orleans. He had a keen, well-renowned understanding of disease control and he served as an inspiring mentor to many individuals beginning their careers in infectious disease, environmental epidemiology and beyond.
Dr. Ratard received an MD degree from the University of Paris Medical School in France and specialized in tropical medicine, microbiology and immunology. Later, he obtained an MS in parasitology from LSU Medical Center, New Orleans and an MPH&TM from Tulane University, and completed his residency in preventive medicine (public health) in Texas.
“Dr. Ratard had an incredible understanding of the way illness spread, and he was a mentor to many of us within the Office of Public Health,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Beth Scalco said. “We are lucky to have known Dr. Ratard and to have learned from him. His legacy will continue through the work that we do each day for Louisiana.”