Trudeau Instutute, Historic Saranac Lake will mark World TB Day

SARANAC LAKE – World TB Day, falling on March 24 each year, is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of several million people each year, mostly in developing countries.

Two Saranac Lake nonprofit groups, Historic Saranac Lake and the Trudeau Institute, are busy with joint projects that tie into World TB Day, which commemorates the date in 1882 when German physician Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.

The antibiotic treatment for tuberculosis was perfected in the 1950s, effectively ending the “TB era” in Saranac Lake. The disease, however, is far from eradicated.

Tuberculosis and World TB Day continue to resonate in Saranac Lake, which was founded in the 19th century as a health resort for those suffering from the disease. TB has long shaped the town’s identity, beginning with the pioneering medical and scientific work of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau and continuing today in the Trudeau Institute laboratory of Andrea Cooper, who will be among the presenters at the venerable New York Academy of Sciences’ World TB Day Symposium: Countdown to 2015, which will take place in New York City on March 24.

As TB Day approaches this year, Historic Saranac Lake (which operates a museum in Dr. Trudeau’s former laboratory on Church Street, established as the first in the United States for the study of tuberculosis) and the Trudeau Institute are combining their efforts to assist with two important projects that will bring attention to the story of TB in the Adirondacks and ongoing efforts to combat it.

The first is the publication of a major new biography of Dr. Trudeau. Mary B. Hotaling, one of the founders of Historic Saranac Lake and its current historian, and Caroline Welsh, director emerita of the Adirondack Museum, are working to produce and publish the book to honor the centennial in 2015 of Dr. Trudeau’s death. The new biography, “A Rare Romance in Medicine: The Life and Legacy of Edward Livingston Trudeau,” is based on the beloved physician’s “An Autobiography” (published posthumously in 1915) and will set Dr. Trudeau’s life and contributions into the larger context of his times.

Cooper, the Francis B. Trudeau Chair in Tuberculosis and Related Research at the Trudeau Institute, will contribute the closing chapter of the book, explaining Dr. Trudeau’s work in the context of the continuing study of the cellular immune response to TB.

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, Dr. Trudeau’s great-grandson, will pen the foreword to the new biography. Partners in the enterprise include Historic Saranac Lake, the Trudeau Institute, the Saranac Lake Free Library and Adirondack Life magazine. Early subscriptions for the book have raised more than $14,000, and fundraising efforts continue through Historic Saranac Lake.

A second important collaboration between Historic Saranac Lake and the Trudeau Institute is their participation in the production of a new documentary to be produced by the PBS history series “American Experience.” The broadcast premiere for the documentary has yet to be announced.